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GM, Ford April Sales Sputter

Chrysler ekes out a sales gain.
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Updated from 1:30 p.m. EDT

General Motors

(GM) - Get General Motors Company (GM) Report

and

Ford

(F) - Get Ford Motor Company Report

each reported sales declines for April, a month that was widely expected to be weak for the automakers.

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

, meanwhile, eked out a gain for the month.

At GM, the world's largest automaker, vehicle sales fell to 311,687 units from 345,505 a year earlier, reflecting in part an ongoing shift away from selling to rental-car dealers. On an adjusted selling day basis, April retail sales rose 3.6% to 228,465 vehicles.

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The adjusted percentage calculates sales on a selling-day basis, accounting for the fact that there were two fewer selling days in April of this year.

GM's car sales slipped to 121,009 cars from 134,603 in April 2006. Truck sales fell to 190,678 trucks from 210,801 a year earlier.

"April sales were consistent with the pattern of the last few quarters - retail sales up, daily rental down, and continued strength of our launch vehicles," said Mark LaNeve, vice president, GM North American sales, service and marketing.

GM lowered its production forecast in North America to 1.145 million vehicles, down 15,000 units, or 1.3%, from last month's projection.

For Ford, vehicle sales totaled 228,623 in April, down from 262,722 in the same period a year earlier. Car sales plunged 23.6% to 80,732 units, and truck sales fell 5.8% to 147,891.

"With April behind us, we remain focused on getting the word out about the strength of our new products, and our marketing offensive is moving into high gear," said Mark Fields, president of Ford's Americas division. "Customers are responding very positively to our new 'Ford Challenge' ads that pit Ford vehicles against the best of the competition, so we're accelerating our plans."

Ford hopes two new F-Series truck ads starring Mike Rowe, creator and star of the Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs," will stir up some buying interest. The ads focus on Ford trucks' safety, strength and capabilities.

Although April sales for most products were lower than a year ago, new crossover utilities helped Ford increase its share in the category. Ford Edge sales were 9,134, and Lincoln MKX sales were 2,901. In addition, Land Rover introduced its first crossover utility, the LR2, and first-month sales were 1,302.

Total company crossover sales were 28% higher than a year ago during April.

Meanwhile, DaimlerChrysler said its U.S. sales rose 1% in April. The company's Chrysler Group division, which is up for sale, sold 193,104 vehicles in the month, a 2% rise from a year ago. Showing particular strength was the Jeep brand, which had a 29% rise in April sales.

DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes-Benz USA division saw U.S. sales decline 2% to 40,895 vehicles.

April sales were generally expected to be lower for the so-called Big Three automakers as macroeconomic factors and higher gas prices weigh on shoppers.