DETROIT - General Motors still expects its share of the U.S. auto market to rise for a third straight year in 2003, even though it has lost share so far this year, a senior executive told reporters on Thursday.
"Seven months from now, we expect to celebrate a three-peat," John Smith, head of North American vehicle sales for the world's largest automaker, told reporters after announcing new GM credit cards.
So far this year, GM has lost more than a point in market share, and executives have conceded that its 0 percent financing offers have lost some of their impact.
GM officials also note that rivals have stepped up their own incentives. Toyota Motor Corp. said this week it could offer higher incentives if the price war escalates in a sluggish car market.
Smith said that so far in May, industry sales are running at a weaker rate than in April, but the pace could pick up as incentives rise.
"It looks and feels like it's smaller this month than last. Not as small as January and February," he said. "Things could change," he added. "The deals get better day by day over the course of the month."
He said sales were running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in the low 16 million range, including medium- and heavy-duty trucks, down from around 16.7 million in April. Excluding medium- and heavy-duty trucks, April sales ran at an annual rate of about 16.4 million.
GM has expanded several programs to boost sales this year. Earlier this week, GM gave its U.S. employees discount coupons that their friends can use to buy a new GM vehicle until June 30 at a price 4 percent above the discount GM employee rate.
The Detroit automaker has also broadened its annual "Auto Show in Motion" ride-and-drive program, which this year will offer thousands of consumers in 20 U.S. cities the chance to drive GM cars and trucks and compare them with competitors' vehicles.
GM also added last month a 24-hour test drive program, allowing customers to take home a GM vehicle overnight.
"We find that when we put folks with preconceived notions or ideas about GM behind the wheel of our new vehicles, they come away impressed and more inclined to consider GM in the future," Smith said.