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US auto sales seen off despite discounts, GM sales drop 6%

[DETROIT] General Motors Co's sales in October fell 6.2 per cent from a year ago as its midsize sedans posted huge declines, partly offset by hefty gains for its smaller pickup trucks and large SUVs, the automaker said on Tuesday.

GM, the top seller of automobiles in the US market, was the first major manufacturer to show October sales on Tuesday.

US auto sales in October were expected to decline between 6 per cent and 8 per cent, according to industry analysts who say the fall-off from last year's record high is not being limited by higher consumer discounts.

The rate of decline in October from a year ago will not be known until later this week because Ford Motor Co is delaying its sales report due to a fire at its Dearborn, Michigan headquarters on Monday.

GM said US industry auto sales will be 17.4 million on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate.

GM's two full-size pickup truck models, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, collectively fell 7.6 per cent.

Thirty-nine economists polled by Thomson Reuters expected sales of 17.5 million vehicles on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis. Wall Street automotive analysts polled by Reuters expected annualized sales of about 17.7 million vehicles.

Ford, the second biggest automaker in the US market with a 15 per cent share of sales through September, has not said when it will issue its sales report. The 60-year-old headquarters, which houses 1,500 employees, was reopened for business on Tuesday after workers were sent home on Monday.

Analysts expect Ford to show a decline of between 9 per cent and 11 per cent from a year ago, which some analysts said was due to better discipline on the use of discounts. Others pointed out that the company is stemming production at North American F-150 pickup truck plants and sedan plants because of weak demand.

Comparisons to last October are pressured because of two fewer selling days. But even with that factored in, sales would likely have been weaker if not for the big consumer discounts, known as incentives, analysts said.

TrueCar Inc said October incentives industrywide rose nearly 16 per cent from a year earlier, or about US$3,600 per new vehicle sold.

Sales at Toyota, No 3 in the US market, is expected to decline of between 2 per cent and 7 per cent, according to analysts polled by Reuters.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is seen falling from last October between 7.5 per cent and 11 per cent.