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July Sales Drop at the Big Three

However, Ford, GM and Chrysler offered upbeat comments on the coming months.
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Detroit's Big Three automakers said their results fell in July from the same month a year ago, with car sales seeing double-digit declines across the board.

Domestic auto sales at

Ford

(F) - Get Report

dropped 7% in July compared with last year, the company reported Friday.

The company sold 297,265 vehicles last month, down from 319,975 in July 2002. Car sales sank 20% to 98,440, and truck sales totaled 198,825, up 0.8%.

Ford blamed the decline in car sales on lower fleet deliveries, discontinued vehicles, like the Escort, Mercury Cougar and Lincoln Continental, and "generally lower retail sales for several current cars."

"Almost every piece of incoming economic data has been positive," Ford's vice president of North American marketing, sales and service, Jim O'Connor, said in a prepared statement. "Good consumer spending gains and recent reports on manufacturing and jobless claims are encouraging. We continue to believe the president's tax cut and lower interest rates will support improving economic growth."

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

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dealers sold 458,022 new cars and trucks in July in the U.S., down 5.5% from the record July 2002 levels. Truck sales of 275,725 were down 1% from a year ago. Car sales totaled 182,297, falling 11% from last year.

"GM's July sales reflected a pattern of continued growth in both units and share and represent our strongest monthly performance so far this year," said John Smith, group vice president of GM North America Vehicle sales, service and marketing. "Considering the very tough comparison to a record year-ago performance, we are very pleased with our results in July. We're optimistic that further improvement will occur through the balance of the year."

The world's largest automaker also said its third-quarter production forecast for North America remains unchanged at 1.225 million units, consisting of 479,000 cars and 746,000 trucks, about 6% below the same period a year ago.

Chrysler Group

, the U.S. division of

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

, reported sales of 178,408 units in July, down 8% from 185,602 in the same month last year, when calculated on a day-rate basis.

The company sold 30,295 cars, down 31% from 42,008 in July 2002. Truck sales totaled 148,113 compared with 143,594 last year. Since July 2003 had 26 selling days vs. 25 in the same month a year ago, truck sales were down 1%.

"We start the second half of the year with some encouraging results," Gary Dilts, senior vice president of sales said in a press release. "Despite a less-than-robust economy, consumers remain resilient," but he added that "the market is definitely challenging."