2 Apr 2009

US sales reports offer hope for vehicle sector

11:35 am on 2 April 2009

Modest signs of hope have emerged for the troubled auto industry as US sales reports for March showed heavy declines from a year ago but increases from weak levels a month earlier.

Overall, automakers sold 857,735 new vehicles in March, according to market research firm Autodata.

That was a 37% decline from a year ago but sharply up 24.5% from February levels.

The sales data represent an annualised pace of 9.86 million, up from 9.12 million in February, Autodata said.

General Motors said on Wednesday its US March sales tumbled 45% from a year earlier, but like other major automakers managed a rise from weak levels one month earlier.

The biggest US auto manufacturer, living off government loans as it struggles to stay alive in the recession, said it sold 156,380 new vehicles in March.

That was far below the figures from March 2008 but a 23% increase from February's level of 127,296.

Ford Motor Co. said its March US sales slumped 40.9% from the same month a year ago, but rebounded 30% from February levels.

The number two US automaker said it delivered 131,465 new vehicles in March, highlighting the collapse in auto sales in response to a deepening recession.

Chrysler said US sales fell 39% in March from a year ago but for the first time since last September it sold more than 100,000 units.

Toyota's US sales fell 36.6% to 132,802 vehicles from the same month last year but marked a 16.3% increase over February for the Japanese maker.