Updated from 2:56 p.m. EST

Ford Motor

(F) - Get Report

posted an 8.2% rise in U.S. vehicle sales in December, while

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

reported a 36% jump.



Chrysler Group recorded a more modest 1% rise.

Ford, based in Dearborn, Mich., said the number of new cars and trucks sold in the most recent month totaled 304,293, up from 281,158 sold in the same period a year earlier. Car sales rose 16.3% to 96,551, and truck sales climbed 4.9% to 207,742. Based on its sales performance, the company boosted its production plan, saying it would churn out 1.01 million vehicles in the first quarter of this year, an increase of 10,000 units from the previous forecast.

Ford's shares responded negatively to the news, however, losing 2.6% to $9.68. Ford's shares took a beating in 2002, falling 41%.

Ford said its F-series topped the nation's best-seller list, with sales of 813,701 trucks. Sales of its new Expedition model rose nearly 31% to 19,371 units, and sales of its Taurus model rose 91% to 32,243 units. Sales of the Ford Explorer rose 25% to 38,645 units.

Ford is scheduled to announce its fourth-quarter and year-end earnings results on Jan. 21. According to its early December update, Ford is expecting 2002 earnings of 40 cents a share. That implies a fourth-quarter profit of 3 cents a share. Analysts are expecting the company to earn 7 cents in the fourth quarter and 45 cents for the year, according to research firm Thomson Financial/First Call.

GM Cites Incentives

Meanwhile, GM, the world's largest auto manufacturer, citied the impact of aggressive incentives for its jump in monthly sales, as the company turned in its best December performance in 23 years.

The Detroit-based company said sales of its cars and trucks rose to 473,663 from 362,169 vehicles in the year-earlier period. The number of cars sold soared 37% to 172,135 units last month, while trucks climbed 35.5% to 301,528 units. The Buick LeSabre, the new Saab 9-3 and several Chevrolet models had outstanding sales to anchor the car unit. GM truck performance was led by Chevrolet trucks, GMC trucks, Cadillac trucks and the Hummer. For the full year, GM dealers delivered 4,858,705 new vehicles, a 1% decline from 2001.

Looking forward, GM said it remains comfortable with its 2003 first-quarter production forecast for North America of 1.4 million units -- 560,000 cars and 840,000 trucks. In the first quarter of 2002, GM North America produced 1.353 million vehicles -- 600,000 cars and 753,000 trucks.

Despite the higher sales, GM's shares ended down 1% at $38.54.

Chrysler Highlights Jeep Sales

Chrysler Group reported U.S. sales of 172,494 units in December, asJeep vehicles set a record for December, the company said, with sales of 45,751 units, up 22% compared with December 2001. Jeep Grand Cherokee sold 24,124 units, up 19% compared with December 2001. Jeep Liberty sold 16,555 units, up 35%, and Jeep Wrangler had sales of 5,072 units, up 9%.

Dodge Ram set a December sales record of 34,812 units, up 20% compared with December 2001, the company said.

Nonetheless, the company's shares ended down 2.5% at $32.14.