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Ford, Honda discounts drive longest streak of gains in 10 years

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Ford, Honda discounts drive longest streak of gains in 10 years

June 1, 2010 - 9:36 am ET

DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. added rebates and discounts to attract buyers over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, driving what may be the longest streak of sales increases in almost 10 years.

Industrywide deliveries probably reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 11.2 million light vehicles in May, according to the average of eight analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg. If sales did exceed the 9.9 million rate from a year earlier, it would mean eight straight months of increases for the first time since a stretch that ended in June 2000, according to Bloomberg Data.

Sales during the Memorial Day weekend in the past three years ran about 40 percent higher than the typical May weekend, and sales on the last day of the month were more than double the average day, according to researcher Edmunds.com.

“This weekend's activity aligns with the start of the big summer selling season,” said Jim Sanfilippo, chief operating officer of Innocean Worldwide Americas LLC, Hyundai Motor Co.'s in-house advertising agency.

Higher discounts may have been needed to help offset the weak retail environment, said Jeff Schuster, executive director of J.D. Power & Associates in suburban Detroit.

Sales to rental-car companies and discounted fleet purchasers may have also boosted results, scheduled to be announced tomorrow, he said.

Ford, Nissan

Ford added $500 rebates May 27 on the namesake brand's Focus car, Edge sport-utility vehicle and F-150 pickup, said Robert Parker, a spokesman. The discounts also applied to the automaker's Lincoln MKS and MKZ sedans and MKT and MKX sport- utilities.

Nissan added a $500 discount for most of its namesake brand vehicles from May 28 through yesterday. Honda's luxury Acura brand is offering lease deals on all models with no down payment and no security deposit, said Chris Martin, a spokesman. The offer started May 28 and runs through July 6.

The annualized rate of sales in the month may match the 11.2 million pace in April, according to Autodata Corp. in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

Ford's sales in the month may have gained 10 percent or more, and the industry rate could be in the low 11 million vehicle range, Mark Fields, the company's president of the Americas, said May 24. The Memorial Day weekend would have an “outsized impact” on May's total, Fields said.

Ford's May sales probably rose 16 percent from a year earlier, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The company's market share should continue to grow if it performs as expected, Fields said.

Honda's U.S. sales may have increased 22 percent from last May, according to Edmunds.com, which predicted an 11 percent gain by Nissan and 28 percent growth for Hyundai.

GM, Chrysler

GM, which was in bankruptcy protection for 39 days starting on June 1, 2009, may have increased sales by 5.9 percent, the average of five analysts' estimates. Chrysler Group LLC, which was in bankruptcy for all of May 2009, may have boosted sales 21 percent, according to the analysts.

Neither of those U.S. automakers nor Toyota Motor Corp. announced nationwide promotions for the three-day weekend.

Toyota's sales during the early weeks of the month had a “pretty sluggish start” as the company reduced incentives, Christopher Ceraso, a Credit Suisse analyst in New York, said in a research note May 27. The company's sales may have gained 7.5 percent in May, according to Edmunds.com.

May had 26 selling days, the same as a year earlier.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100601/RETAIL01/100609994/1448#ixzz0pdtby0dv

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