September was good for carmakers; Sales of light trucks, SUVs grew even faster than gains for cars


DETROIT -- General Motors Corp., the world's largest automaker, and DaimlerChrysler AG said yesterday that U.S. sales of cars and light trucks rose last month, helped by model year-end discounts on sport utility vehicles and other trucks.

Sales of GM models built in North America climbed 8.5 percent from September 1998, below forecasts as overseas rivals lured car buyers. DaimlerChrysler, the third-largest automaker in the United States, said sales including Mercedes-Benz increased 7.4 percent, in line with estimates. Japan-based Toyota Motor Corp. posted its best-ever September sales.

Automakers, including Ford Motor Co., which is to report sales Monday, are benefiting from a U.S. economy that is building on its longest peacetime expansion. Analysts estimate that industrywide sales rose 10 percent from September 1998, putting the annual selling rate on a record track for the eighth straight month.

Autodata Corp. estimates that September's annual auto sales rate is on track to reach 17.7 million, up from 15.6 million in September 1998 when GM was rebounding from two strikes.

GM's light-truck sales rose 30 percent to 216,782, its best September ever for those models, while its car sales fell 6.4 percent to 214,499. At DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler division, truck sales climbed 8.4 percent to 142,632, while car sales increased 4.9 percent to 65,912.

Sales of DaimlerChrysler's Jeep Grand Cherokee more than doubled to 27,529, helped by price breaks. Sales of its larger sport utility vehicle, the Dodge Durango, rose 19 percent from the year-earlier month to 15,632.

That strength was partially offset by falling sales of Chrysler's minivan and passenger cars.

Sales of GM's Chevrolet Silverado rose 65 percent and GMC Sierra climbed 63 percent, reflecting demand for pickup trucks.

The decline in car sales reflected weakness from models that have not been updated in several years. Chevrolet Camaro sales slid 25 percent from the year-earlier month, while Cadillac Catera fell 23 percent.

Toyota, the fourth-largest U.S. automaker, reported a 10 percent increase from the year-earlier month. Camry midsize sedan sales rose 19 percent, and sales of its Lexus RX 300 sport utility climbed 39 percent.

Pub Date: 10/02/99

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