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US Auto Sales Slide in March

- By Mayank Marwah

U.S. auto sales plunged for almost every automaker in March as an increase in vehicle prices coupled with unfavorable interest rates pushed consumers to avoid buying new vehicles, leading to low sales in the first quarter of the year.

Performance of U.S. automakers

General Motors Co. (GM) no longer reports monthly sales. Its first-quarter sales tumbled 7% to 665,840 units. The company's major brands did not register sales growth. Anticipating the trend of larger vehicle sales to continue for the rest of the year, the Detroit-based automaker plans to roll out full-size pickups in the second half of the year along with two new heavy-duty pickups from Chevrolet and GMC.

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) also no longer releases monthly sales figures. The company is scheduled to report first-quarter sales this Thursday. As per industry data, its sales dropped 2% in the first quarter and 5% in March.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCAU) posted sales declined 7.4% in March to 200,307 units. Sales of the top-selling Jeep brand fell 11% to 87,328 units. Chrysler brand sales plunged 38% to 12,169 units. Sales of Ram vehicles, however, grew 15% to 51,822 units.

Performance of other automakers

Toyota Motor Corp.'s (TM) sales deteriorated 3.5% in March to 214,947 units as a result of slowing demand for its Corolla and Camry sedans. In a statement, the Japanese carmaker said :"While some of our competitors are abandoning sedans, we remain optimistic about the future of the segment."

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s (NSANY) March sales plummeted 5.3%. While sales increased 2% for the Sentra compact, Altima sedan sales dipped 1.9%. Sales of the Rogue crossover also declined from the prior-year quarter.

Honda Motor Corp. (HMC) registered 4.3% sales growth in March and 2% growth in the first quarter.

Trucks and SUVs dominate

Several automakers halted production of unpopular car models on account of changing consumer tastes, cutting passenger cars in favor of SUVs, crossovers and trucks.

Passenger car sales slumped during the first quarter of the year as demand for larger, more comfortable pickup trucks and SUVs continued to rise. Therefore, carmakers are rolling out redesigned and efficient versions of pickup trucks in a strategic move to gain market share.

Disclosure: I do not hold any positions in the stocks mentioned.

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This article first appeared on GuruFocus.