updated 1/8/2004 2:36:58 PM ET 2004-01-08T19:36:58

Staying aggressive on consumer incentives in 2004, General Motors Corp. on Thursday added sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks to those vehicles eligible for interest-free loans for up to five years.

GM’s latest program, which runs through March 31, features zero-percent financing for 60 months on most new 2004 cars and trucks. Excluded from the offer are Cadillac models, the Chevrolet SSR, Hummer H2 and Pontiac GTO.

The enhancements come five days after GM announced plans to give away 1,000 cars, trucks and SUVs in 56 days as part of a $50 million promotion to generate showroom traffic and build awareness of its nine U.S. brands.

GM chairman Rick Wagoner has said he hopes an improving economy and other factors will allow the automaker to back off a bit on profit-dwindling incentives this year, but the company would do what’s necessary to stimulate sales.

GM, the world’s largest automaker, saw its U.S. market share fall to 28 percent last year from 28.4 percent in 2002, according to Autodata Corp. The company had posted two straight years of market share gains.

GM’s U.S. sales fell 2.4 percent in 2003.

Earlier this week, DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group, the No. 3 U.S. automaker, announced a new incentive program that offers zero-percent financing for 48 months plus a $2,000 cash rebate on nearly all Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler models.

Chrysler, whose U.S. sales fell 3.5 percent last year, also offers interest-free financing for five years on many models. Buyers can get 72-month, interest-free financing on minivans. Cash rebates of up to $4,500 also are available.

No. 2 Ford Motor Co. said its current incentive programs expires Tuesday. Ford’s U.S. sales were off 4.6 percent in 2003, though its F-Series pickups were again America’s top-selling vehicles. The Toyota Camry was the best-selling car.

Credit Suisse First Boston said Thursday industrywide incentive spending rose 4.4 percent, or an average of $118 a vehicle, from November to December. Big Three outlays rose $49 a vehicle to an average of $3,712. The average Asian brand incentive increased by $106 a vehicle to $1,224, while the average European carmaker trimmed incentives by $156 to $1,604 a vehicle.

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