Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. sales fell 14.4 percent in August as stalwarts such as the Mustang and the F-150 pickup weren't able to ease the pain.
General Motors, conversely, reported a 6.1 percent gain for the month, boosted by strong demand for light trucks.
Nissan North America saw a 6.3 percent increase in sales, driven largely by the popularity of the Altima car, while Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. blamed weaker consumer confidence for August sales that fell 2.8 percent.
Chrysler LLC said U.S. sales fell 5.6 percent as the automaker cut back on sales to daily rental companies.
American Honda Motor Co. said its U.S. sales rose 4.7 percent in August. Chrysler's former stablemate, Mercedes-Benz USA, said August sales were 1.8 percent higher than last year.
Sales for the month totaled 1,478,604, a 0.6 percent decrease from last year's 1,486,824. U.S. sales for the year are down 2.8 percent.
Executives cautioned that the embattled auto industry was suffering reverberations from a weaker housing market and the shakeout in subprime lending.
Ford said the Mustang, which traditionally has its best sales in spring and summer, dropped 35 percent in August. The F-series truck declined 9.9 percent.
The automaker -- including Mercury, Lincoln and Premier Automotive Group brands -- sold 217,170 vehicles last month, compared with 253,820 in August 2006.
Ford blamed much of the weakness on an aggressive incentive push last year, when it offered 0 percent financing to clear its stock of 2006 models. This year's August inventory was down 140,000 vehicles over last year.
Ford said today that it is offering rebates of as much as $1,000 on most 2007 and 2008 model vehicles in the United States this month. The consumer incentives are part of Ford's "Swap Your Ride" marketing campaign, where Ford chronicles the difference between its vehicles and those sold by its competitors.
Ford also is offering interest-free financing on its F-150, plus a cash rebate.
The rebate offer runs through Oct. 1.
The bright spots for Ford were few:
- The Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers saw sales soar 82 percent.
- Lincoln posted its 11th straight monthly sales increase.
- The redesigned Ford Escape crossover was up 4 percent, and the Mercury Mariner crossover rose 6 percent.
- Even with high fuel prices, the huge Ford Expedition SUV racked up a 17 percent gain over last year.
- Ford's Land Rover brand reported record sales in August with 4,853 units sold, a 32 percent gain over last year.
GM cut its third-quarter North American production forecast by 2 percent from last month's outlook to 1.05 million vehicles and set its fourth-quarter production target at 1 million vehicles, down 10 percent from 2006.
GM also said it estimates its U.S. market share for August was above 26 percent, the highest level of the year. GM sales to commercial fleets rose 21 percent last month, while showroom sales were flat during the month, said GM's chief sales analyst, Paul Ballew.
Much of GM's sales increase came from booming demand for the redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. With an additional $400 on the hoods of each, both trucks posted huge gains over last year.
Chevrolet sold 67,486 Silverado and old-style C/K pickups, up from 51,185 last year. GMC sold 23,574 Sierras in August, up from 17,564 sold a year ago.
GM got another good sales performance from its new trio of mid-sized crossovers -- the GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook and Buick Enclave. Combined sales for all three were 12,983.
Toyota said August sales totaled 233,471 vehicles, down from 240,178 units a year earlier. Toyota Division cars led the decline with an 8 percent dip from August 2006. Sales of the Yaris small car plunged 31 percent, fueled by an unexpected demand for the three-door hatchback and a shortage of all models.
Corolla and Avalon car sales both fell about 12 percent, with Corolla selling 30,491 units and Avalon 5,880.
The Camry sedan led Toyota Division's August sales with 42,658, while sales of the Prius hybrid grew 25.7 percent to 15,055 cars. It was an August record for the Prius.
Toyota's luxury Lexus Division increased sales 3.6 percent, posting an August sales high of 32,199.
Honda said it sold 158,342 vehicles in August, including results for its luxury Acura brand. That compared with 151,253 vehicles a year earlier.
Chrysler LLC sold 168,203 vehicles last month, compared with 178,211 a year earlier.
Chrysler's Lifetime Powertrain Warranty has brought double-digit increases in consideration from buyers, company officials said during their monthly sales call this afternoon.
The lifetime powertrain warranty, the industry's first, has moved the needle "more than any other thing we've seen in a long, long time," said Jason Vines, Chrysler vice president of communications.
It's too early yet to tell whether the increased consideration will translate into better sales for slumping Chrysler, but officials are optimistic.
"We are very positive about the future," said Darryl Jackson, vice president of U.S. sales.
August sales for Nissan North America rose 6.3 percent, boosted primarily by the Altima. Sales of Nissan's redesigned mid-sized car totaled 25,434, up 25.4 percent from August 2006. That tally included 3,228 sales of the new Altima coupe.
The automaker sold 95,526 vehicles in August, including its luxury Infiniti brand.
Sales of Nissan's car lineup were up 7.6 percent, while light-truck sales were up 3.9 percent.
Nissan U.S. sales chief Mark McNabb said the gain in Nissan-branded light trucks in August partly reflected an increase in targeted incentive spending on older models. "Our incentives are probably up a touch but not substantially," McNabb said. "We definitely got a better bang for our buck."
McNabb said that although U.S. credit markets and subprime mortgage problems appeared to be dampening consumer confidence, there was no sign that tighter credit was shutting consumers out of the market.
"When people walk through the door, we're not seeing a denial of credit or anything like that," he said. "I think the impact may be on consumer confidence."
August sales for Nissan's luxury Infiniti brand increased 8.7 percent to 10,252. Sales of the QX56 SUV jumped 55.1 percent from last year to 1,176 units, while G-sedan sales increased 42.3 percent last month to 4,349 units.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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