Edmunds: Ford’s US New-Vehicle Sales May Top GM In March

Edmunds.com predicted Ford Motor Co. (F) would sell more new vehicles in the U.S. than any other auto maker in March, as crosstown rival General Motor Co.’s (GM) results would likely be constricted by a pullback in incentive spending.
The car-shopping website estimated Ford would sell 210,400 units in March, 2,000 more than GM. If the beat were to occur, it would be the second victory for Ford in at least 50 years, excluding strike impacts. Ford last sold more vehicles than GM in February 2010.
“GM seems to have pulled back on incentives in March and could suffer a sales hangover through the next few months, given that the company’s earlier offers have been quite generous and may have pulled ahead future sales,” said senior analyst Jessica Caldwell.
Broadly, Edmunds estimates adjusted U.S. new-vehicle sales will rise 12% in March from a year ago, with five of the six major auto makers expected to report higher sales. Toyota Motor Corp. (TM, 7203.TO), which halted some production in North America as a result of parts shortages stemming from the earthquake in Japan, was expected to post a 6.7% decline.
March sales are expected to increase 10% for Ford and 6.7% for GM. Stronger growth was projected for Chrysler Group LLC, Honda Motor Co. (HMC, 7267.TO) and Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY, 7201.TO).
The industry has benefited from improved sales of trucks and other large vehicles, a trend that has continued for months. The pickup in new-vehicle sales comes after the industry suffered mightily during the financial crisis, although the annual sales pace is still off from what was considered normal prior to the last few years.
Edmunds estimated that March’s seasonally adjusted annualized rate, or SAAR, would be 13.1 million, down from about 13.4 million in February.
It also estimated that average auto incentives in the U.S. were $2,321 per vehicle sold in March, down 9.5% from February and 18% lower than a year ago.
March had 27 selling days, one more than last year.

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