Originally created 05/05/04

GM reports mediocre U.S. sales to end mediocre April



DETROIT -- General Motors Corp.'s new car and truck business rose less than 1 percent in April, a lackluster result that wrapped up a month in which consumer demand failed to meet industry expectations.

GM, the world's largest automaker, said Tuesday overall sales rose 0.4 percent last month. Truck sales, aided by heavy incentives, rose 1.2 percent, while car sales were off 0.8 percent.

GM reported April results a day after most major automakers because of a glitch late last week in its vehicle delivery reporting system.

Some analysts had forecast GM sales would rise 3 percent to 5 percent in April, based in part on hefty incentives on most 2004 trucks. But sales of sport utility vehicles and pickups didn't lift results as much as anticipated.

"I would conclude that the month was best described as 'OK' from an industry standpoint, a little bit below expectations," Paul Ballew, GM's executive director of global market and industry analysis, said in a conference call Tuesday.

Industrywide, sales for the month rose a modest 0.8 percent from a year ago, according to Autodata Corp. So far this year, U.S. sales are up roughly 3 percent.

Some observers predicted April sales to rise 5 percent or more based on the recovering economy and the influx of tax refunds. Instead, showroom traffic seemed to stall for some brands, possibly hurt by rising gas prices and incentive offerings that have become stale.

The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for April was 16.4 million units, the same as last April and down from the seasonally adjusted rate of 16.7 million last month. The sales rate indicates what sales for the full year would be if they remained at the same pace for all 12 months.

Full-year sales for 2003 were 16.7 million, and most analysts and industry executives predict an uptick in 2004.

On Monday, Ford Motor Co. also posted April sales results that were below expectations, while DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group performed slightly better than expected.

Among foreign automakers, Toyota Motor Corp. reported its eighth consecutive best-ever April, helped in part by strong demand for its gas-electric hybrid Prius sedan. Toyota's U.S. sales were up 10 percent for the month.

Honda Motor Co., the only other automaker currently selling a hybrid vehicle on the U.S. retail market, said its Civic hybrid posted a second consecutive month of record sales. So far this year, Honda has sold 9,023 Civic hybrids, 11 percent more than at this point last year.

Overall, though, Honda's U.S. sales were off 2.4 percent.

Nissan Motor Co.'s U.S. arm had another positive month, up 14 percent behind solid sales of its new Titan full-size pickup and Armada full-size SUV.

Ford's sales were off an unexpectedly sharp 4.6 percent in April from a year ago as an aging car lineup continued to hamper business. But the company said its second-quarter production schedule and full-year sales outlook were unchanged.

The Chrysler Group saw sales rise 1 percent last month.

In trading on the New York Stock Exchange, GM shares were down 35 cents to close at $47.94. Ford shares were up 14 cents to close at $15.41, while DaimlerChrysler's U.S. shares rose 56 cents to close at $45.67.

On the Net:

Ford Motor Co.: http://www.ford.com

General Motors Corp.: http://www.gm.com

DaimlerChrysler: www.daimlerchrysler.com