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Ford posts lower-than-expected April sales

Ford Motor Co. Monday posted a weaker-than-expected 4.6 percent drop in U.S. sales for April, while some General Motors Corp. dealers said they had very poor sales for the month.
Toyota Surpasses Ford For Number Two Position In Auto Sales
Ford's auto sales fell sharply in April, though the company's second-quarter production schedule and full-year sales outlook remains on track.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ford Motor Co. on Monday posted a weaker-than-expected 4.6 percent drop in U.S. sales for April, and some General Motors Corp. dealers said they too had poor monthly sales.

GM, the world’s largest automaker, said it would delay reporting its U.S. sales until Tuesday, due to a computer system problem which prevented some car dealers from submitting their results.

Higher tax refunds and lower mortgage payments had been expected to push April sales up 3 to 5 percent across the industry. But results, pending the release of GM totals on Tuesday, may have been weaker than expected, industry officials said.

“April is a funny month. You’ve got the Easter bunny and the tax man and the two of them together sometimes make bad things happen in the car business,” said Gary Dilts, Chrysler group senior vice president of sales.

Sales for Ford’s U.S. brands dropped to 267,066 vehicles, as weak car sales outweighed better truck sales, including a 2 percent gain for the F-Series pickup truck. Analysts had expected the No. 2 U.S. automaker to post a slight sales gain.

“For Ford, April was not up to par,” Ford chief sales analyst George Pipas told reporters and analysts on a conference call. “We bogeyed April.”

Ford’s sales drop comes on top of a 1.2 percentage point drop in its U.S. market share in the first quarter. Ford’s selective use of incentives has come at the expense of sales and market share, Standard & Poor’s said in a research note published on Monday.

Analysts had expected GM to post 4 percent to 5 percent higher sales for April. But several dealers based in Michigan — a key market for GM because of the large number of employees in the region — as well as in the Los Angeles area said sales were terrible in April.

“1980 and 1981 were terrible years. This is the worst month I’ve had since,” said one dealer in the Detroit area, who asked not to be named. “It was a disaster.”

“April was terrible. I hear the region was pretty bad,” said another GM dealer, in the Los Angeles region, who also asked not to be named.

At the beginning of April, GM launched its “Truckfest” incentive program, offering cash rebates and zero-interest loans on most of its SUVs, pickups and minivans. However, one of the dealers said consumers expect better incentives in May.

Tax refunds
DaimlerChrysler posted a 1 percent gain in sales for April. Sales for the Mercedes brand rose 3 percent, while the Chrysler group reported a 1 percent gain.

Analysts had expected sales across the industry to rise to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 17 million, the highest level since December and up from 16.4 million in April last year and 16.6 million in March. However, the sales rate may only have hit 16.5 million in April, Chrysler’s Dilts said.

Sales for most foreign brands were stronger.

Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. posted an April sales record of 167,129 vehicles, up 10.1 percent, while Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.  sales rose 14 percent.

“We’re very optimistic going into the (spring) selling season,” Jed Connelly, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Nissan North America, told Reuters in an interview. “It looks like the first weekend in May was positive.”

Honda Motor Co. Ltd.’s sales fell 2.4 percent, while Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. barely squeezed out another record month with a sales gain of 0.1 percent.