Mixed March for U.S. auto sales
GM sales sink on decline in retail sales; Ford also posts decline, but DaimlerChrysler gains.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Detroit's Big Three automakers turned in a mixed March as General Motors and Ford Motors put up another month of sales declines, while crosstown rival DaimlerChrysler kept gaining on their heels.
Retail sales fell 17 percent compared to strong year-ago deliveries, and fleet sales tumbled 5 percent.
But the Cadillac Escalade and Chevrolet Tahoe, two of the models the automaker is counting on to help revamp its ailing North American operations, posted double-digit sales gains.
"March sales were solidly in line with the targets established in our U.S. turnaround plan," Mark LaNeve, General Motors North America vice president of vehicles sales, service and marketing, said in a statement.
Total Escalade sales rose 45 percent from a year ago, while Tahoe sales gained 20 percent.
"We are pleased that consumers are reacting very favorably to our great new products, with the Chevy Tahoe, Impala and HHR, Buick Lucerne, Cadillac Escalade, and GMC Yukon all having a great month," he said.
Sales of Ford's F Series pickup truck, the nation's best-selling vehicle, rose 4.5 percent, but several of the automaker's SUV models posted double-digit declines.
Sales of the Ford Explorer fell 31 percent while the Excursion and Expedition, two of the automaker's large SUVs, declined 82.9 percent and 13.4 percent, respectively.
Both GM and Ford have been struggling as they steadily lose market share to imports and Detroit rival Chrysler Group, the North American unit of DaimlerChrysler.
As part of its turnaround efforts, GM said Monday it was selling a controlling stake in its GMAC finance arm to hedge fund Cerberus Capital Management and the private equity arm of Citigroup. (Full story.)
Sales at its key North American unit Chrysler Group, which includes the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands, edged higher 2 percent while its luxury Mercedes-Benz group's sales gained 18 percent to 21,417 units.
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