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Auto Sales Down, But Ford And Chrysler Take Back Market Share

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2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

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2011 Ford Fiesta

2011 Ford Fiesta

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The industry is still suffering, and sales haven't truly found their rebound yet. But Ford and Chrysler are showing surprisingly strong in the market, compared to where they were last year.

Versus the Cash for Clunkers frenzy of last summer, sales are way down—about 20 percent versus last August, to a total of about 1.015 million this month, according to a forecast from the pricing-intelligence authority TrueCar.

However, looking at market share, Chrysler has posted a noteworthy 1.5-percent gain, comparing this July versus last August. Looking at this month, TrueCar anticipated that Chrysler's market share will rise slightly more this month. And Ford, TrueCar predicts, will have gained a full percent of market share this month versus last August—to 15.9 percent, which puts it ahead of Toyota. Versus last summer, it has the all-new 2011 Ford Fiesta to thank, along with a new 2011 Mustang, and the first 2011 Ford Edge models will soon arrive. Chrysler, in the meantime, hasn't had any all-new models except for its 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

While the rental industry and companies are stepping up to stock their fleets once again, retail sales continue to be the sore spot. Fleet and rental vehicles will make up about 17 percent of overall sales in August, helping to pick up some of the slack, as retail sales are down a 27 percent versus last August. No wonder showrooms have seemed a little slow.

Some automakers are clearly faring better than others. Honda, which has introduced a niche vehicle, the CR-Z hybrid, but is waiting for the all-new 2011 Odyssey to arrive, is down in market share versus last year—at an estimated 11.2 percent this month, versus 12.8 percent last August. General Motors, Nissan, and Toyota are also down versus the Cash for Clunkers period.

The pace if improvement in new vehicle sales has not been as robust as we predicted at the beginning of the year," said TrueCar's VP of industry trends and insight, in a release accompanying the forecast. "Low consumer confidence remains as the main counter-force for a healthy recovery," he added.

The flip side of the story is, how much in incentives have automakers been sweetening shoppers with in order to keep sales going? Overall, incentives are about 13 percent higher versus last August, with an average $2,864 on each new vehicle. Honda is now offering $2,186 per vehicle—that's 66.1 percent more than last August—while Chrysler now puts $3,798 on each of its vehicles—a nearly 22-percent reduction from last year.

For Chrysler, stronger sales with lower incentives bodes well for the future.

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