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GM, Toyota Post U.S. Sales Increases for February

General Motors said on Thursday that its U.S. sales rose 3.4% in February, with an 11% increase in retail sales offsetting a reduction in fleet sales to daily rental companies. GM's Japanese rival Toyota Motor, meanwhile, reported a 12.2% sales spike for the month.

GM said it sold 311,763 vehicles in February, up from 301,545 vehicles a year earlier.

Last month had 24 selling days, the same number of selling days as Feb. 2006.

GM's total car sales slipped 3.3%, to 108,902 units from 112,656 last year. Truck sales rose 7.4%, however, reaching 202,861 vehicles.

The world's biggest automaker thwarted the forecasts of many analysts who expected GM to report an overall sales decline in February, along with Ford Motor and DaimlerChrysler.

Sales growth was even stronger at Toyota , which reported that its February U.S. sales rose 12.2% to 187,330. The bulk of those vehicles were sold by the company's Toyota division, which reported sales of 164,812 units.

Sales of passenger cars by the Toyota division leaped 21.1% to 106,429 cars. Americans also bought more light trucks from the Toyota division -- 80,901 in total, up 2.4% from this time last year.

Toyota's luxury car unit, the Lexus division, reported a 6.6% increase in sales, to 22,518 automobiles.

Sales Slip at Ford, DaimlerChrysler

Ford and DaimlerChrysler reported lower U.S. sales for February, fulfilling expectations of broad declines among automakers.

Sales at Ford fell 13% overall during the month, to 211,150 from 244,021 in February of last year.

Car sales at Ford fell 22%, with half that decline accounted for by the company's decision to slash fleet sales to rental agencies. Sales of Ford trucks dropped 8.4%.

Ford said it plans to build 770,000 vehicles in the second quarter, down from 897,000 in the year-ago period.

DaimlerChrysler reported sales of 191,810 cars and trucks, a decline of 7.7% from the 207,723 vehicles the automaker sold in the same month last year.

Chrysler Group, DaimlerChrysler's beleaguered U.S. unit and the focus of buyout speculation, saw automobile sales fall 8.3% to 174,506 units. Sales at Mercedes Benz edged down 0.3% to 17,304.

Some analysts have wondered whether Chrysler would take a hit because of reports it's up for sale. Earlier this month, Chrysler officials tried to assuage dealers' fears, following a Feb. 14 announcement that the company's German parent is mulling all options for its U.S. operations, including a potential sale.

More Lower Sales on Horizon, Analysts Say

Many in the industry say Ford, GM and Chrysler will see lower sales for some time, as a result of production cuts and reduced fleet sales.

Calyon Securities analyst Joseph Amaturo said GM's declining fleet sales during the month were likely somewhat offset by increasing incentive spending, due to a Presidents' Day sale event. While GM increased incentive spending to lift retail sales and bridge the gap between competition in select segments, the incentives are unlikely to correct inventory levels.

"We expect GM to cut product more aggressively in the 2007 second quarter," Amaturo wrote in a note to investors.

Stronger Sales for Honda

Meanwhile, Honda Motor said its U.S. sales rose 3.2% on stronger sales of its trucks.

American Honda Motor, which includes the Honda and Acura brands, said it sold a total of 110,026 vehicles in February, up from 106,644 in the 2006 month.

Truck sales rose 7% to 49,521, while car sales edged up less than a percent to 60,505.

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