Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

U.S. Auto Sales Expected Mostly Lowera

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

U.S. Auto Sales Expected Mostly Lowera

Article excerpt

DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- General Motors, stung by a steep U.S. market share decline last month, is doing all it can to post better numbers in March.

The maker of Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn cars and trucks saw its U.S. share fall to 28.6 percent in February, a steeper decline than expected, from 30.5 percent in the year-earlier period. It was the latest disappointment for the company that controlled 45 percent of the U.S. market in the 1970s.

Industrywide, U.S. vehicle sales in March are expected to slide about 2 percent from a strong year-earlier period. GM and Ford told analysts last week their sales would be lower, while Chrysler is expected to be little changed. Still, some analysts are looking for a positive surprise from GM because of its heavy spending on price breaks and advertising this month. "Given all the money they threw at the market, there's no excuse for them not to come in above 30 percent," Merrill Lynch analyst Nick Lobaccaro said. The seasonally adjusted annual selling rate is expected to be about 15.1 million, down from 15.6 million in March 1997, the year's second-best month. Last month's rate also was 15.1 million. Chrysler reports its March sales Wednesday, two days before GM and Ford. Toyota and Honda, the best-selling Japan-based automakers in the United States, also report Wednesday. Japanese carmakers are expected to post mostly higher results as they make an extra push in March, the last month of their fiscal years. "The Japanese are usually pretty strong in March," said George Magliano, an auto industry consultant with the WEFA Group. Nissan may be an exception as it continues a three-year slide in U.S. sales. Company officials said last week they expected March sales to be lower than the year-earlier level. Through February, its sales had fallen 27 percent from the year-earlier period. Burnham Securities analyst David Healy said the Japanese and other foreign brands' share of the U.S. market should rise in March, with the Japanese enjoying a continued currency advantage. The yen traded at 132.27 to the dollar Monday, its weakest showing since January. A weak yen and strong dollar tends to make Japanese products cheaper in the U. …

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