DETROIT -- Employee pricing is working for Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group, too.
Through the first 15 days of this month, the Big 3 have captured 62.4 percent of retail new-vehicle sales, according to the Power Information Network division of J.D. Power and Associates. The Power Information Network collects data on sales of new and used vehicles from more than 6,200 auto franchises.
That's a gain of 2.6 percentage points compared with the first 15 days of June -- when only General Motors was offering discounted employee pricing to consumers.
But with all of the Big 3 now counting anyone as a member of the family, dealers say showroom traffic is up.
According to the Power Information Network, GM held 30.3 percent of retail new sales in the first half of July. During that same time, Ford grabbed 19.6 percent and DaimlerChrysler held 12.5 percent.
During the first half of July, the top three Japanese automakers have given up market share, the research firm's data shows. Yet sales for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., American Honda Motor Co. and Nissan North America are still growing.
"The domestic programs are expanding the overall market," said Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis at Power Information Network. "But the Japanese are not selling any fewer vehicles than in the past; in fact, they are selling more vehicles than in both June and last July."
The employee price incentives program is moving the metal for the Big 3, but it probably won't yield much of a return when it comes to profits.
Ford's employee discount pricing program slashes the sticker prices of vehicles by thousands of dollars. For example, the rebates on Ford's Explorer sport-utility vehicle total about $8,000. Analysts have said the program squeezes already-thin profit margins.
"July sales are looking very strong so far," Ford spokesman Dave Reuter said on Thursday. "Dealers are seeing a very large increase in showroom traffic," he said.
"The strength seems to be across the board for us -- cars, trucks and SUVs -- but particularly on some of our new products like the Freestyle, Five Hundred and Mariner SUV," Reuter said.
Ford saw its sales rise 0.7 percent in June, according to the Automotive News Data Center. That tally includes the automaker's Premier Automotive Group. But sales in the first half of this year are down 4.6 percent, as Ford has been hit hard by declining demand for its mid-sized and large sport-utility vehicles amid high U.S. gasoline prices.
Overall, Ford's U.S. sales are likely to increase 15 percent this month over July last year, Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache said in a recent note to clients.
Ford and the Chrysler group matched GM's consumer incentives program after the world's largest automaker -- which has been selling anybody a 2005 model-year vehicle at the same low prices GM employees pay since June 1 -- extended the discounts through Aug. 1.
The promotion delivered blockbuster sales for GM in June. But heavy incentives spending also cut into GM's profit margins and the company posted a second-quarter loss of $1.19 billion in its North American automotive operations.
The employee rebate program continues to drive GM's sales for the second month in a row and has helped the embattled automaker cut bloated inventories of unsold end-of-model-year vehicles.
"GM's program hasn't lost its edge to newer programs from Ford and Chrysler," said Lache, who is forecasting that the sales incentives from Detroit's automakers will boost industry sales to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 19 million vehicles in July.
That is far above the 17.2 million rate in July last year and 18.1 million in June.
contributed to this report.