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GM, Ford miss estimates as car models plunge despite discounts

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General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co reported US sales that missed estimates as heavy incentive spending failed to keep struggling sedan and compact models from continuing their plunge.

[SOUTHFIELD, Michigan] General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co reported US sales that missed estimates as heavy incentive spending failed to keep struggling sedan and compact models from continuing their plunge.

Deliveries rose 1.6 per cent for GM and declined 7.2 per cent for Ford last month, both trailing analysts' projections, and Honda Motor Co reported a surprise drop. Sales of the Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion family cars each plunged by more than 35 per cent.

The early results cast doubt on estimates that industrywide US auto sales would rise in March compared with 2016's weakest month, when results were depressed by the early Easter holiday.

Automakers are using heavy discounts to trim inventory that's swelled to the highest level in more than a decade.

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"Sales are under forecast and there were a lot of incentives during the month," Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader.com, said by phone.

"Before long, we will see more production cuts."

GM sees the the industry's annualised sales pace, adjusted for seasonal trends, accelerating to 17 million for the month, trailing analysts' estimates for a rate of 17.2 million. The rate was 16.7 million a year earlier.

GM shares fell three per cent to US$34.30 as of 9.51am New York time. Ford was down two per cent to US$11.41.

"Many automakers are looking for signs of market stability as consumers continue to head towards trucks and SUVs," Jeff Conrad, senior vice president of Honda's US sales unit, said in a statement. Deliveries of the Accord sedan slumped 12 per cent.

Nissan Motor Co. sales rose 3.2 per cent, beating analysts' estimates for a 2.8 per cent gain. Rogue crossover deliveries surged 43 per cent in March, as the model continues to outsell the longtime leader within the segment, Honda's CR-V.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV may report sales growth of about 0.4 per cent as it pares fleet sales and begins North American production of the Jeep Compass.

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