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March Auto Sales Continue Downward Trend

April 2, 2008

March auto sales for most automakers continued on a downward trend. Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM and Toyota reported sales declines compared with last March, but Honda and Nissan bucked the trend with higher sales then what was reported for the same month last year.

Those automakers that saw declines, however, remain optimistic, tailoring their vehicles to customers’ needs and wants and expecting a jump in sales with the release of new-year vehicles in the second half of the year.

Audi, whose sales fell slightly 0.4 percent from last year, maintained confidence in its luxury vehicles.

“Despite economic volatility, customers looking for luxury that’s stylish, powerful and smart continue to find Audi,” said Johan de Nysschen, executive vice president of Audi of America, in a company release. “I believe that Audi offers the product range, performance and intelligent design that Americans want.”

Despite its March sales falling 5.4 percent from the same month in 2007, BMW expects its release of new models to bring in more sales.

“BMW of North America expects a stronger increase in sales in the second half of the year. Sales will be driven by new products coming to market this year,” reported officials.

Chrysler sales were down 19 percent from March 2007, which company officials attributed to news coverage of the sagging economy. The company, however, expects to remain strong based on its appeal to environmentally-conscious customers.

“This market environment is driving more customers to our newest value-oriented, fuel-efficient products. Chrysler's strategy to right-size our operations, increase fuel efficiency and reduce daily-rental fleet sales will help us get through this period as a stronger company with healthier dealers,” said Vice Chairman and President Jim Press.

Ford’s sales decline was concentrated in trucks and sports utility vehicles.

“This is a very challenging external environment, reflecting a seismic shift in consumer preferences,” said Jim Farley, Ford group vice president of marketing and communications. “These conditions will likely persist in the near future. At Ford, we remain focused on executing our plan, which includes being profitable at lower volume and changed mix.”

Although GM’s sales fell 13 percent from March 2007, retail share remained stable throughout the first part of 2008.

“Despite the tough economy and soft truck market, we anticipate our total retail vehicle sales share to have remained flat for the month and the first three months of the year. We are encouraged by our performance in the key passenger car categories, and we anticipate holding our share for full-size pickups and utilities,” said Mark LaNeve, vice president, GM North America Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing.

Although Toyota’s sales fell 3.4 percent from last March, sales of the automaker’s hybrids were up 19 percent from last year. Honda saw a 4.2 percent increase in March vehicle sales.

"The Honda product portfolio is adapting well to the current direction of the marketplace," said Dick Colliver, executive vice president of American Honda. "People are clearly being more strategic with their money as parts of the economy seek balance and other parts adjust to record-high gasoline prices."

Nissan also reported an increase in sales in March, up 3.6 percent over the same period last year.

The March 2008 sales reports for the above-mentioned companies are as follows:

Audi: Audi of America announced sales for the month of March totaling 7,987, a decrease of 0.4 percent from last year’s figures.

Audi Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) sales rose to 3,283 units in March, an increase of 35.2 percent from a year ago.

Sales of the A4 increased 26.8 percent over last year, and sales of the TT jumped 443.7 percent.

BMW: The BMW Group in the U.S. (BMW and MINI combined) reported March vehicle sales of 27,404, down 5.4 percent from the 28,980 vehicles sold in the same month of 2007.

BMW brand sales were down 8.7 percent, to 23,115 vehicles compared to 25,325 vehicles sold during March 2007.

Monthly sales of BMW brand automobiles increased 2.6 percent in March, to 19,231 versus 18,746 in 2007.

Sales of BMW Sports Activity Vehicles were down 41 percent for the month, to 3,884 vehicles compared to the 6,579 reported in March 2007.

MINI USA reported a 17.3 percent increase in March sales, to 4,289 cars compared to 3,655 cars sold in the same period a year ago.

Chrysler: Chrysler LLC reported total March 2008 sales of 166,386 units, which is 19 percent below the same period last year.

Chrysler brand sales dropped to 40,539, 22 percent below the 51,874 units reported in March 2007.

Jeep brand sales dropped 12 percent from the same period last year, reporting 39,941 units sold.

Dodge brand sales fell from 109,229 in March 2007 to 85,906 in March 2008, a 21 percent drop.

Ford: Total Ford Motor Company sales, including Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volvo, totaled 227,143, down 14 percent from the year before.

Ford, Lincoln and Mercury sales totaled 213,074, down 14 percent compared with a year ago.

However, retail sales for the Ford Focus were the highest for any month since August 2005, up 36 percent in March compared with the same period a year ago.

Sales to individual retail customers were 17 percent lower than a year ago. Sales to daily rental companies were down 13 percent vs. a year ago, and total fleet sales, including daily rental, were down 9 percent.

General Motors: GM dealers in the United States delivered 282,732 vehicles in March, a decrease of 13 percent when compared with the same month a year ago.

Retail share, however, appears to have remained stable throughout the month, reported officials.

GM total truck sales for the month declined 16 percent compared with March 2007.

Honda: American Honda Motor Co. posted a March 2008 sales result of 138,734 Honda and Acura vehicles, an increase of 4.2 percent based on the daily selling rate. March 2007 sales results included two additional selling days and totaled 143,392.

Honda total car sales posted record monthly results of 83,214, an increase of 11.1 percent.

The Honda Division posted March sales of 125,446 cars and light-trucks, an increase of 6.9 percent compared to year-ago results.

The Acura Division posted total vehicle sales of 13,288, down 15.8 percent.

Nissan: Nissan North America (NNA) reported sales of 106,921 units in March, up 3.6 percent on a daily sales rate basis vs. last March's sales of 111,119 units.

Nissan-brand vehicles saw sales of 93,100 units in March, a 3.1 percent increase on a daily sales rate basis compared with March's 97,242 units sold. Combined sales of Nissan cars posted their best ever month of sales, with 56,453 cars sold.

Infiniti sales rose 7.3 percent on a daily sales rate basis, with 13,821 units sold, compared with last March's 13,877 units.

Toyota: Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) U.S.A. reported March sales of 217,730 vehicles, a decrease of 3.4 percent from last March.

The Toyota Division posted March sales of 192,791, a decrease of 2.9 percent from last March. Toyota Division passenger cars recorded March sales of 114,897 units, up 1.5 percent from last March. Toyota Division light truck sales were down 8.8 percent, with March sales of 77,894 units.

Scion posted March sales of 11,131 units.

The Lexus Division reported March sales of 24,939 units, a decrease of 6.9 percent from the year-ago month. Lexus passenger cars reported March sales of 14,881 units, a decrease of 11.6 percent from March 2007. Lexus Division light trucks reported March sales totaling 10,058 units, an increase of one percent from the year-ago month.

TMS posted March sales of 31,552 hybrid vehicles, an increase of 19 percent from last March. Toyota Division posted sales of 29,804 hybrids while Lexus Division posted sales of 1,748 hybrids.

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