DETROIT -- General Motors said Monday that its U.S. vehicle sales fell about 19 percent in February as high incentives failed to spark demand amid war fears, high unemployment and falling consumer sentiment.
The decline forced GM to set a second-quarter North American vehicle production forecast about 10.5 percent lower than the same quarter last year.
Production is crucial to automakers' earnings because they book profits when vehicles are shipped from plants to dealers, before any sale on dealer lots.
GM, which last cut vehicle production in the fourth quarter of 2001, said its February sales dropped to 333,572 vehicles from 411,111 sold in February 2002. The results include GM's Saab unit and some medium- and heavy-duty trucks.
GM has led the price war that has helped offset weak consumer confidence and bolster auto sales since the Sept. 11 attacks. But industry analysts say consumer incentives, estimated to be up about $500 per vehicle in February from year-ago levels, have been losing clout with jittery consumers heading into the peak spring sales season and the likely start of a U.S.-led war in Iraq.