GM October Sales Down 23%

Ford's also tank.
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Detroit's hangover worsened Tuesday, as monthly car sales data showed that this summer's heavy discounting has resulted in anemic autumn demand.

General Motors

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, the world's largest automaker, said its U.S. vehicle sales fell for the third straight month, down 23% from October of 2004. GM sold 257,623 cars and light trucks last month, compared with 346,058 for the same period last year.

The company engaged in an aggressive promotional campaign over the summer months, including so-called "employee discounts" by which buyers received the same prices and financing terms as GM workers. The move resulted in several months of impressive sales gains, but it increasingly looks like the discounts pulled fall sales forward into the summer.

GM's U.S. competitors followed its lead in summer promotions, and they're now experiencing similar pains.

Ford

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reported its U.S. vehicle sales dropped 23.1% in October, with its gas-guzzling truck segment showing particular weakness after hurricanes Katrina and Rita raised the specter of gasoline conservation for consumers.

Sales of its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands dropped to 184,639 vehicles in October from 249,484 vehicles in the same month last year. Sales of trucks were down 30%, while car sales dipped 3.7%. S.U.V. sales took the biggest hit, down more than 50%.

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

also said its U.S. auto sales slipped in October. It sold 183,163 automobiles for the month, down from 188,492 last year. Accounting for one less selling day in the latest period, Daimler's U.S. sales actually rose 0.9% for the month.