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Old 08-20-2004, 07:54   #1 (permalink)
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US:Ford analyst is expecting drop-off in August sales

Ford analyst is expecting drop-off in August sales

BY ALAN OHNSMAN
BLOOMBERG

Ford Motor Co. expects to post lower sales this month than in August 2003 because of the timing of Labor Day weekend and slack demand in Florida after Hurricane Charley, the company's market forecaster said Thursday.


Ford, the second-biggest U.S automaker, reported lower sales in six of seven months this year. The company expects August sales to be "a little softer than a year ago," said George Pipas, the automaker's sales analyst, on a conference call hosted by Raymond James & Associates. "Our expectations are pretty much what's playing out in the market."


In August 2003, U.S. vehicles sold at an annual rate of 19 million, the highest level since October 2001. Ford's vehicle sales in August 2003 fell 12 percent from a year earlier.


The maker of F-Series pickups has lost 1.1 percentage points of U.S. market share this year as consumers continue to buy more vehicles from overseas rivals such as Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. To reverse that trend, Ford aims to supplement light truck sales, which continue to rise, with new cars, such as the Five Hundred sedan and Freestyle crossover vehicle. Those models go on sale in September.


This year through July, Ford's sales fell 3.7 percent from a year ago to 1.84 million. Ford is the only company among the six largest automakers selling in the United States to lose sales this year. Overall U.S. industry sales have risen 2.4 percent this year.


The three-day Labor Day weekend, which draws consumers into showrooms, coincided with the final week of August sales last year, Pipas noted. This year, sales during the holiday weekend will be counted in September.


In addition, Hurricane Charley, which pounded central and southwest Florida on Aug. 13 and knocked out power for more than 1 million customers, probably cut sales in the state this month, he said.


"Going into the month, our expectations were that this would be a tough month to match, and I think that it's complicated by the fact that we have had this hurricane," Pipas said.


Paul Ballew, sales analyst for General Motors Corp., didn't offer a specific August sales forecast for the world's largest automaker.


Automakers will announce their August sales on Sept. 1.
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