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US auto sales rise in March but miss expectations

[NEW YORK] Leading automakers reported another month of higher US car sales in March on Friday, but the increases were not as big as expected.

General Motors, the largest US automaker, notched a 0.9 per cent rise in sales compared with the year-ago period at 252,128 vehicles, below the 1.8 per cent gain projected by Edmunds.com.

At Ford, US auto sales came in at 254,711 in March, up eight per cent from March 2015, but lower than the 9.1 per cent increase expected.

Fiat Chrysler's sales were 213,187, an eight per cent rise, but also below the 13.4 per cent gain expected by Edmunds.

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US car sales hit a record in 2015, as low interest rates and gasoline prices boosted consumer purchases, with especially strong sales of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

The company sales reports Friday pointed to continued strong sales for many of these products, such as the Ford F-series trucks and Fiat Chrysler's Ram trucks. Sedan models with strong gains included GM's Chevrolet Malibu.

Most analysts believe the US auto market will soon level off, although another strong year is expected in 2016.

GM said the Federal Reserve's go-slow signal on future interest rate increases after a small hike in December would likely keep sales high.

"We expect historically low interest rates, strong employment, rising wages and stable fuel prices to continue for the foreseeable future," said Mustafa Mohatarem, GM's chief economist.

"The Fed's decision to delay interest rate hikes should extend the current sales cycle, and allow the auto industry to continue to lead the overall US economic recovery, as it has throughout the current cycle."

AFP

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