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GM, Ford Sales Decline in May

June 4, 2002

The two biggest U.S. automakers, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., each reported double-digit percentage sales declines in May while the Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler AG showed a 4 percent increase for its second consecutive monthly sales gain, according to an Associated Press report.

Numbers crunchers for GM and Ford called May an aberration after an unexpected 5 percent overall decline in sales of new cars and trucks. But Paul Taylor, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA(), said a moderation in sales was to be expected, especially in light of the 6 percent national unemployment rate, which he said is "disqualifying some buyers."

GM said June 3 its May sales were down 12.4 percent from a year ago, reflecting a 12 percent decline in trucks and a 13 percent drop in passenger cars. For the year, GM sales are up 3 percent compared with the first five months of 2001. Despite the May decline, GM boosted its second-quarter earnings forecast.

Despite the modest sales decline in May, NADA chief economist Paul Taylor expects year-end light vehicle sales to be about 16.4 million units - the fourth best on record. "That will be quite an accomplishment, following the best three years in history for new car and light truck sales, and considering the slow economic growth and uncertainties related to world events," Taylor said.

Gasoline prices may be a concern for some buyers, as cars outsold light trucks in May. NADA anticipates a pickup in economic growth in the fourth quarter, consistent with moderate economic growth.

Although industry vehicle sales during the last week of May were softer than in the rest of the month, the auto industry is still healthy, said Gary Dilts, senior vice president of sales for DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Speaking during a call to discuss Chrysler Group's May sales, Dilts said the automaker isn't concerned about the industry. Although Chrysler's U.S. auto sales rose 4 percent in May to 216,563 from 207,487, U.S. vehicle sales declined 12 percent at both General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. It was the second straight month that the Chrysler Group posted year-over-year sales gains. "Our assumption is that the industry is still healthy and we'll see a good June," Dilts said.

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