DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- U.S. auto sales may have run at the fastest pace this month since the 2009 "cash for clunkers" program as Toyota Motor Corp.'s incentives to counter global recalls spurred rivals to match the discounts.
Industrywide deliveries may have risen to an annualized rate of 12 million light vehicles, the average of eight analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Toyota said its sales climbed at least 35 percent.
"The deals are unbelievable right now," said Rebecca Lindland, director of automotive research for the Americas at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. "This kind of sales activity is what we need to see in order to achieve the types of improvement being forecast for the year."
Domestic sales last reached this pace in August, when the government's rebates for scrapping old cars drew shoppers to showrooms. An increase in March would be the fifth straight monthly advance as automakers recover from the worst slump in the U.S. market since 1982.
General Motors Co. may post a 25 percent increase tomorrow, while Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford Motor Co. may report a jump of 39 percent, based on the average of six estimates. Chrysler Group LLC may show a drop of 3.4 percent.
Toyota's sales rose at least 35 percent, Bob Carter, group vice president of U.S. sales operations, said in an interview today at the New York auto show.
The Toyota City, Japan-based automaker will extend its no- interest loans and discount leases for at least a month and may make free maintenance standard for all U.S. buyers, Carter said. Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne decried incentives yesterday as "unhealthy" for the industry.
"There are a couple of players, who will remain nameless, who I considered to be engaged in, for their own benefit, a very unwise and unhealthy process," Marchionne said in New York at a conference sponsored by the National Automobile Dealers Association and IHS Global Insight. "Trying to get that back once you've gone down that path -- look at us, we had to go Chapter 11 to clean up our act."