Recovery Pace Slows For U.S. Auto Industry

y Dee-Ann Durbin and Tom Krisher, AP Auto Writers DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. auto industry stayed on the road to recovery in April, but it eased up on the gas pedal a bit. Ford Motor Co. saw last month's sales rise 25 percent from a year earlier, while General Motors Co. climbed 6.4 percent.

y Dee-Ann Durbin and Tom Krisher, AP Auto Writers

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. auto industry stayed on the road to recovery in April, but it eased up on the gas pedal a bit.

Ford Motor Co. saw last month's sales rise 25 percent from a year earlier, while General Motors Co. climbed 6.4 percent. Hyundai, Subaru and others also continued to see gains from last year.

All automakers report their U.S. sales on Monday, and together they're expected to outpace last April, when the industry was hurt by the economic downturn.

But the industry overall may not be able to maintain the pace of March, when big sales promotions led by Toyota Motor Corp. fueled higher sales. The Japanese automaker needed to lure buyers after suffering a series of safety recalls beginning last fall.

As buyers' expectations for even better deals grew, demand slowed from March and some automakers eased up on promotions.

Auto research website Edmunds.com says incentives fell an average of 5 percent in April as the luster wore off some of the deals and automakers tried to pull back on spending. But there were still were good bargains. Honda Motor Co. spent a record $1,787 per vehicle, while Toyota spent $2,498, down $245 from record-high levels in March. GM spent $3,273 per vehicle, although that was skewed by high incentives on the brands it is discontinuing.

GM said it spent $100 less per vehicle in April than in March.

"We'll be judicious with our incentives," said Steve Carlisle, GM's new vice president of sales. "We'll be competitive but not foolish."

After taking out brands that GM is phasing out or selling, GM sales rose 20 percent from April of last year. GM's four remaining brands are Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac.

The Detroit-based automaker saw strong sales of several new products, including the Chevrolet Camaro, Chevrolet Equinox, Buick LaCrosse and GMC Terrain. Full-size pickup truck sales rose 8.4 percent, an indicator that the construction business is in recovery.

April was the fifth month in a row that Ford posted an increase of 20 percent or more compared with the same month in the prior year.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker's pickup sales were particularly strong. Ford said F-Series sales jumped 42 percent thanks to the new Super Duty truck. SUV sales rose 33 percent, led by the Escape and Explorer. Car sales rose 10 percent.

Korean automaker Kia Motors Corp.'s April U.S. sales rose 17 percent on strong demand for its newly released Sorento crossover and Forte sedan. Hyundai's sales increased 30 percent on rising demand for the new Sonata midsize sedan.

Subaru's U.S. sales soared 48 percent the back of its Outback small wagon, which doubled its sales from April of last year. Crossovers are SUVs built on sedan bodies and combine elements of both vehicles.

GM's Carlisle said his company's performance is consistent with a slow and steady economic recovery. The automaker stuck with its forecast of total U.S. light vehicle sales of 11.2 million to 11.7 million for the year.

That's better than last year's 10.4 million, but far below the peak of more than 17 million in 2000.

Consumer spending rose 0.6 percent in March, the largest amount in five months. Yet the increase was financed out of savings. Incomes rose only slightly. Factory activity in April grew at the fastest pace in nearly six years.

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