December Auto Sales Weak

None of the Big Three automakers manage to increase sales in 2003.
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Updated from 02:02 p.m.

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

was the only one of the Big Three automakers to report higher December vehicle sales.

Sales at the Chrysler group posted their third consecutive montly gain,

Ford Motor's

(F) - Get Report

slipped for the third month in a row, and

General Motors'

(GM) - Get Report

plunged after surging in November.

Chrysler group overall sales rose 2% in the month to 182,831 units, During the period, car sales fell 16% to 29,880 units, while truck sales rose 6% to 152,981.

" We gained tremendous momentum in the second half of 2003 with sales of the 2004 Chrysler Pacifica and the all-new 2004 Dodge Durango," the company said in a statement accompanying the results.

Ford ended a disappointing fourth quarter with a 4% decline in December, when it sold 292,209 vehicles. Car sales fell 16.4% to 80,763 units but truck sales rose 1.2% to 211,446 during the month.

"Although overall sales were lower, we're improving margins in North America by focusing on retail business and selling a richer product mix," Ford said. "We'll continue with that strategy in 2004."

GM's overall sales fell 9% to 447,900 units. Car sales declined 5% to 169,494 vehicles, while truck sales plunged 11% to 278,406.

The automakers also released full-year sales figures.

At Chrysler, overall sales fell 4% to 2,127,451 units. Car sales were down 13% to 456,676 vehicles. Truck sales were basically flat at 1,679,775 units, but the Dodge Ram had record sales of 449,371, a 13% gain from 2002.

Overall sales at Ford also fell by about 4% in 2003 to 3,483,719 units. Its truck division managed a gain of 0.7% to 2,314,286 units in 2003. Car sales dropped almost 12% to 1,169,433.

GM's total sales for the year slipped 2% from a year ago to 4.8 million vehicles. Truck sales were flat at almost 2.8 million units, while car sales fell 5% to just below 2 million.

December figures showed a continuation of recent sales trends.

For Chrysler, the Dodge Durango and Ram models drove gains, posting respective increases of 26% and 11% in the month

Ford's F-Series truck posted record December sales of 84,657, up 16% from a year ago. It was the fourth consecutive month to show a double-digit increase.

Recently shares of all three automakers were up. DaimlerChrysler's were up 87 cents, or 1.9%, to $47.61, while Ford's gained 30 cents, or 1.9%, to $16.38. General Motors rose 73 cents, or 1.4%, to $54.37, and have risen about 25% since the beginning of December. Ford shares have more than doubled since their 52-week low set last March.