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Mid-February Car Sales Dip Sharply Despite Incentives

February 25, 1987|STEPHANIE DROLL | Times Staff Writer

DETROIT — Domestic new car sales slid 26% in mid-February from the same 10-day period a year ago despite cash and cut-rate financing incentives offered by many auto makers.

In reports released Tuesday, the eight U.S. auto manufacturers said they sold a total of 188,001 new cars in the Feb. 11-20 period, down from 253,907 in the 1986 period.

General Motors reported the steepest decline of the Big Three auto makers with a 38.1% drop in sales. Ford said its sales were off 7.9%, and Chrysler posted a 14.8% decline in sales.

Industry observers noted, however, that sales in the year-ago period were boosted by the last days of major, across-the-board incentive programs offered by U.S. auto makers. And, while this year's sales pale in comparison to the extremely strong 1986 results, mid-February's sales pace is an improvement from January's sales slump.

"This period's percentage decline is inflated by the more rigorous incentives last year," said Ted Sullivan, an auto analyst with Chase Econometrics.

The major domestic auto makers are currently offering various discounts and rebates on selected models.

Among the smaller manufacturers, American Motors said its sales fell 63.8% in mid-February; Volkswagen of America reported a 23.6% decline, and Nissan U.S. posted a 38.2% drop in sales.

Toyota only recently began selling the cars it produces jointly with GM in Fremont, Calif., so no year-to-year comparison is available.

American Honda, the only manufacturer to report an increase for the period, said its sales were up 55.5%. Honda's sales reflect its increased U.S. production rather than a substantial jump in total name-plate sales, however. For instance, although Honda's domestic sales were up in January, its total sales in the United States, including imports, were down.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, domestic new cars sold at an annual rate of 7.2 million units in the Feb. 11-20 period, down from the 9.4-million rate recorded in the comparable 1986 period. AUTO SALES

Feb. 11-20 Feb. 11-20 % 10-Day 1987 1986 change GM 91,716 148,068 -38.1 Ford 59,225 64,274 -7.9 Chrysler 26,130 30, 683 -14.8 Honda U.S. 6,208 3,993 +55.5 AMC* 725 2,000 -63.8 VW U.S.* 1,522 1,992 -23.6 Nissan U.S. 1,791 2,897 -38.2 Toyota U.S. 684 -- -- TOTAL 188,001 253,907 -26.0

*Estimate

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