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In a post-sale slump, car makers offer deals

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. -- General Motors Corp. has begun another round of incentives to lure US buyers after a sharp drop in October sales. Ford Motor Co. said it will unveil its own promotion today.

GM's program runs through Jan. 3 on most 2005 and 2006 Buick, Pontiac, GMC, and Chevrolet cars and trucks. It puts a set, discounted price on each vehicle, incorporating current rebates. The offer, for example, cuts the price of a two-wheel-drive Chevrolet Suburban sport-utility vehicle by 20 percent, or $7,916, to $31,724. Previously, the SUV had a $3,500 cash discount.

GM is again broadening discounts after a 26 percent drop in October sales. Its sales shot up 48 percent in June when it replaced traditional incentives with no-haggle discounted prices equivalent to what GM employees pay. October's plunge followed the end of employee discounts at the beginning of that month, raising further questions about the company's ability to sell autos without steep discounts.

''Everybody will look at this as an act of desperation, but I don't think it's that far off from what they would do anyway for a year-end event," said Jim Sanfilippo, senior industry analyst with Automotive Marketing Consultants. ''What's different about it is they're starting it early."

Ford and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler followed GM in July with their own versions of employee discounts. Ford spokesman Jim Cain said his company will announce its own promotion today that will be ''more targeted" than GM's.

Chrysler spokesman Kevin McCormack said his company is studying ways to maintain its competitive position. ''I do anticipate we'll be doing something very soon," he said.

GM, Ford, and Chrysler all stopped offering employee-discount prices in October.

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