Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Car sales rebound in July

U.S. automakers lose more ground to Asian rivals

By John Porretto
The Associated Press

DETROIT - Sales of new cars and trucks rebounded in July from anemic sales the month before, even as the nation's two largest automakers, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., both reported weaker year-over-year results. GM and Ford continued to lose market share to Asian rivals.

No. 1 GM, coming off a bigger-than-expected double-digit sales drop in June, posted its best sales month of the year, helped by aggressive but costly consumer incentives. No. 2 Ford also had a solid month for retail sales, but its overall results came in below year-ago results for the fifth month this year.

Among July's big winners were DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. Toyota brands outsold those from Chrysler by more than 10,587, according to Autodata Corp.

Still, Chrysler's business was up 2.35 percent last month on a 22 percent surge in car sales. Chrysler has posted a year-over-year sales increase in nine of the past 10 months.

The new Chrysler 300, a uniquely styled sedan that's become a favorite among baby boomers and rap stars alike, has buoyed Chrysler's sales. The automaker sold 12,915 of the 300s in July, up from 11,300 in June.

"It's attracting customers across all demographic segments," said Gary Dilts, Chrysler's senior vice president for sales. "You can't buy this kind of popularity and appeal."

Nissan's U.S. arm recorded its best month ever, and Toyota's American division had its best-ever July. Asian automakers have grown their U.S. business by 7.3 percent in the first seven months of the year, while Detroit's Big Three were down 1.4 percent.

Overall, the U.S. industry bounced back from June, even though total sales were down slightly less than 1 percent from a strong, incentives-driven month a year ago.

The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for July was 17.3 million units, well above June's 15.4 million pace but below May's rate of 17.8 million.

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