In a down month for the industry sales overall, and for General Motors and Ford Motor Co. in particular, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. hit an all-time high.
The combined U.S. sales of Toyota, Scion and Lexus vehicles totaled 217,286 units in March -- an all-time monthly record for the Japanese automaker. Toyotas March sales were up 6.9 percent from the same month a year ago.
Several other automakers, including American Honda Motor Co., and the Hyundai Group, said March was a record-setting sales month.
Overall, automakers sold 1,530,909 vehicles in the United States in March. That was down 2.9 percent from total sales in March 2005.
After the first quarter of this year U.S. auto sales stood at 3,935,946 units, up 1.1 percent from the same period last year.
GM, Ford fall
General Motors U.S. sales fell 14.4 percent in March to 359,705 units. GM said the sales drop was due in part to its moves to reduce low-profit sales to fleets.
Through the first three months of this year, GMs sales are down 5.2 percent to 950,317 units. In the same period last year, GM sold slightly more than 1 million units.
U.S. sales of Ford Motor Co.s trio of new sedans -- the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr -- continued to grow in March. But that growth was offset in part by a 31 percent drop in Explorer sales. Ford sold 17,157 units of the SUV in March, compared with nearly 25,000 the same month last year.
In all, the automakers sales fell 4.7 percent to 289,512 units.
For the first quarter of this year, Ford Motors U.S. sales were down 2.8 percent to 736,687 units. Fords sales tally includes Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo.
DaimlerChryslers U.S. sales rose in March to 237,854 units, a gain of 2.9 percent from the same month last year. The Chrysler group ran a 0 percent interest for 60 months incentive campaign in March but said it would shift its focus to cash incentives on Tuesday, April 4.
For the first quarter of this year, DaimlerChryslers U.S. sales are up 3.9 percent to 613,561 units.
March record for Honda
American Hondas U.S. sales, which include the Honda and Acura brands, rose 0.2 percent in March to 128,806 units. The Honda brand is getting a push from the redesigned Civic, sales of which were up 14 percent to 28,969 units in March. For the first quarter of 2006, sales of the Civic were up 32.4 percent to 78,479 units.
Overall, American Hondas sales were up 8.3 percent to 333,844 units for the first three months of this year.
Nissan North America said sales for the fiscal year that ended March 31 passed the 1 million-unit mark, the second year it has passed that milestone.
Combined U.S. sales of Nissan- and Infiniti-brand vehicles fell 2.6 percent in March to 103,095 units. The automakers sales were down 0.6 percent for the first quarter of this year to 263,227 units. But the automaker expects a spike this year with the launch of the Versa small car and redesigned versions of the Sentra and Altima sedans.
Korean automaker Hyundai Group, which includes the Hyundai and Kia brands, saw sales rise 3.0 percent in March to 67,770 units. For the year to date, sales are up 4.6 percent to 170,821 units.
Among other automakers:
- BMWs U.S. sales rose 16.8 percent in March from a year earlier to 28,380 units. Sales for the first quarter were up 10.7 percent from the same period a year ago.
- Mazdas U.S. sales fell 2.4 percent in March to 25,514 units. But sales for the first quarter increased 5.1 percent to 67,271 units.
- The Volkswagen groups U.S. sales, which include the VW and Audi brands, rose 18.8 percent in March to 28,084 units. The VW brand got a boost from higher sales of the Jetta and Passat sedans, and addition of the Golf GTI. The groups sales were up 19.1 percent for the first quarter.
The sales results came as U.S. automakers dialed up their spending on sales incentives last month.
A survey released by Edmunds.com said the average incentive on a vehicle sold in March was $2,510, up 7 percent from February.
Edmunds estimated the industry spent $3.8 billion on incentives in March, with GM and Ford accounting for 71 percent of the total.
The combined incentive spending for Ford, GM and the Chrysler group averaged $3,205 per vehicle in March, up from $3,001 the previous month.
Reuters contributed to this report
You may e-mail Dale Jewett at [email protected]