Domestic car sales fell to their lowest level since 1975 last month despite increasing numbers of rebates, price cuts and other market stimulants.
U.S. automakers said today that they sold 469,832 cars in January, down 20.1 percent from the 587,739 sold in the same month last year. Domestic sales in the final 10 days of January were off 26.3 percent.
Incomplete reports indicated sales of imported cars dropped to about 170,000 in January, down 20.7 percent from 214,428 last year. That would give imports nearly 27 percent of the U.S. car market -- about the same as last January.
Chrysler Corp.'s 7 percent customer rebate program again made it the only U.S. automaker to better last year's January performance.
Chrysler domestic sales of 55,452 were up 2 percent from 54,355 last January -- the fourth consecutive month in which Chrysler sales were higher than the year-earlier period. AMC, which cut sticker prices from Jan. 14 to Feb. 20, reported sales of 10,719 cars, down 10 percent from 11,904 -- a better performance than in December.
Ford Motor Co. has begun a dealer cash incentive program to stimulate sales of its midsized, compact and small, sporty cars. Dealers who qualify will receive about $300 a car, giving them extra latitude to discount sticker prices or boost trade-in values. Ford said it sold 97,969 U.S.-built cars last month, down 22.9 percent from 127,000.
General Motors Corp. reported January sales of 293,219 cars, off 23 percent from 380,848 last year.