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GM, Chrysler sales gains fall short as jobs falter

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — General Motors, Toyota, Chrysler and Nissan reported U.S. sales gains in May that trailed estimates as incentive offers failed to draw enough buyers amid slumping job growth.

GM deliveries last month rose 11 percent to 245,256, according to a statement. Toyota's sales surged 87 percent to 202,973, Chrysler's climbed 30 percent to 150,041, and Nissan's increased 21 percent to 91,794. The results missed analysts' estimates for gains of 15 percent by GM, 93 percent by Toyota, 40 percent by Chrysler and 29 percent by Nissan.

Ford, which reported a 13 percent light-vehicle sales gain that beat estimates, boosted incentives in May, Chrysler offered some buyers no monthly payments for 90 days, and GM offered discounts to try to offset market-share recovery by Japanese automakers, Peter Nesvold, a New York-based analyst for Jefferies & Co., said Thursday in a research note.

"We're a little bit disappointed that some of the incentive offers didn't drive sales a little bit beyond what they did," said Alec Gutierrez, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book in Irvine, Calif.

GM offered "substantial" increases in rebates for pickups and sport utility vehicles, while Ford boosted discounts on models such as the Fiesta and Focus cars, Escape SUV and large F-Series pickups, Nesvold wrote.

Ford deliveries last month rose to 215,699 cars and light trucks, according to a statement. Ford beat the 12 percent gain that was the average estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg as sales of the Mustang sports car surged 58 percent to 10,427.

Chrysler, ranked fourth in U.S. light-vehicle sales this year, began production in May of the Dodge Dart compact and starts shipping the car to dealers this month. Deliveries of the Caliber, which Dart replaces, fell 66 percent to 1,341.

Honda deliveries rose 53 percent, the average of seven analysts' estimates. The Tokyo-based automaker entered May having reported year-over-year sales declines in 10 of the last 12 months, as the tsunami and Thai floods later in 2011 sapped supply of Civic compacts, Accord sedans and CR-V SUVs.

"The Japanese competitors are now back fully in the marketplace," said Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Chrysler and its majority owner Fiat SpA,. "It's something that we have not had to deal with, effectively, over the last 12 months."

Ford is adding production at some North American plants to keep up with demand and boost output by 400,000 vehicles on an annual basis. The company boosted incentives in May to be in line with the industry, which remains "very disciplined" in its use of discounts, said Erich Merkle, Ford's sales analyst.

"We pulled back perhaps a little too much in the month of April, which is why we had a bit of a dip," he said.

GM, Chrysler sales gains fall short as jobs falter 06/01/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 1, 2012 10:38pm]
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