AUTO

GM, Ford Post Sales Increases in March as Incentives Draw Buyers

General Motors Thursday reported a 43 percent increase in March domestic sales for the four brands the company will keep following its restructuring, as Ford Motor Co. says its U.S. sales rose nearly 40 percent.

GM also cited continued strength for crossovers as a reason for the sales increase, while Ford said their success was largely due to strong demand for its Fusion and Taurus sedans.

Ford says car sales rose 53 percent. The Fusion set an all-time monthly sales record, with sales up 79 percent over last March. Truck sales climbed 30 percent.

Higher customer incentives were expected to boost sales in March, having been sparked by Toyota, which is looking to draw back customers scared by its safety recall. Meanwhile, analysts have said they expect improved access to credit and leasing will boost sales throughout the year.

The results for GM were the first since the company last month overhauled its sales operations in North America for the second time in four months.

GM is projected to fall behind crosstown rival Ford in the U.S. for the second consecutive month, according to Edmunds.com. Excluding strike impacts, Ford in February beat GM in the U.S. for the first time in at least 50 years.

Among the four brands GM is keeping, Buick led the way with a 76 percent sales surge. Cadillac and the much bigger Chevrolet reported sales jumped 42 percent and 41 percent, respectively, while GMC had a 45 percent increase. GM said total combined sales for those brands were 185,406 for the month, the sixth-straight month of gains.

GM's total sales, which includes four brands the auto maker is ditching, were up 21 percent.

Part of the reason sales jumped so dramatically is the moribund sales levels the industry was reporting a year ago at the depths of the financial crisis. The looming auto industry restructuring was also a factor, which later resulted in GM and Chrysler Group LLC filing for bankruptcy protection.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.