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Automakers Report Sales Drop

Ford Motor Co. reported a 9.9 percent drop in September U.S. vehicle sales Tuesday and said high marketing costs of sales incentives will cause it to miss its third quarter earnings targets.

General Motors Corp. sales were down 3 percent last month, bolstered by strong sales of its light trucks, which were up 10.2 percent compared with last September.

Sales of vehicles produced by DaimlerChrysler AG dropped 28 percent in September compared with September 2000.

Ford controller Lloyd Hansen said Friday the zero percent financing instituted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks raised marketing costs 10 percent, causing the company to predict a third quarter loss in excess of 10 cents a share.

A consensus of analysts by Thomson Financial/First Call had expected a loss of 6 cents a share. Ford said Sept. 14 that it would fall short of its expectations of a 10-cent-per-share profit, but at that time provided no specific guidance. The automaker will release its third quarter earnings Oct. 17.

Ford's sales decline is indicative of a general slowdown in vehicle sales following the attacks.

However, Ford sales analyst George Pipas said sales during the last 10 days of the month actually tracked higher than the same period a year ago, and a tracking study by the marketing firm J.D. Power and Associates also suggested sales regained momentum in the last two weeks.

"By the end of the month, sales were nearly as high as what was expected when the month began," Pipas said.

Sales of Ford passenger cars last month plummeted 11 percent as compared with September 2000 while truck sales, which include minivans and sport utility vehicles, dropped 9.2 percent.

The company's smallest SUVs posted the best results. The compact SUV, Escape though enjoyed a 78 percent rise in sales. While the popular Explorer SUV saw an 11.4 percent drop in sales, the larger Expedition's sales fell 39.3 percent and the even larger Excursion saw a 54.9 percent drop-off in sales.

The figures do not reflect sales of Ford's foreign brands Jaguar, Volvo or Land Rover.

Japanese automakers were not immune to the declines.

Toyota Motor Corp. saw a 4.2 percent drop in September sales, and sales of vehicles produced by Honda Motors Inc. fell 2 percent.

German automakers saw mixed results. September sales of vehicles produced by BMW AG rose 4.4 percent from September 2000, while Volkswagen AG saw it's U.S. sales drop almost 19 percent.

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