updated 7/25/2008 3:32:20 PM ET 2008-07-25T19:32:20

General Motors Corp. said Friday it is extending its employee discount program to a wider group of non-employees in an effort to boost sales in a weak automotive sales environment.

GM will allow employees to offer the discount to any one person through July 31. Employee discounts are normally limited to employees and their immediate family.

Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president of North American sales, informed workers of the new program in an e-mail Thursday evening after the decision to extend the discounts was made earlier in the day.

"During this challenging period for people across the country, there's no better time than to talk up our great products and give someone you know an additional incentive to buy GM," LaNeve wrote in the e-mail.

GM spokeswoman Susan Garontakos said the discount is good for all of GM's vehicles. The exact amount a buyer would save depends on the particular model.

Like most of the other major automakers, GM has seen its sales tumble this year as a result of soaring gas prices and a weak overall economy.

"It's important to keep merchandising ... keep consumers thinking about buying a car," Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner told reporters Friday at the dedication of a GM testing facility in Pontiac, Mich.

GM's U.S. sales dropped 18 percent in June from a year earlier but were better than many analysts expected, largely as a result of a month-ending three-day sale.

GM shares fell $1.10, or 8.5 percent, to close at $11.90 on Friday.

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