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US auto sales dive in October

DETROIT -- US auto sales fell sharply in October, dampened by hurricanes, fidgety consumers, and high gas prices. Demand was down after a summer of heavily hyped discounts, and automakers warned they don't expect an upswing in November.

General Motors, Ford, and Nissan reported big declines yesterday, while Toyota and Honda edged up and DaimlerChrysler's sales were flat.

Sport utility vehicles took the biggest hit. Sales of the Ford Explorer, Lincoln Navigator, GMC Yukon, Hummer H2, and Toyota Land Cruiser were all down 50 percent or more.

DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group responded by putting a $1,000 incentive on all 2005 and 2006 vehicles. No other automaker made a similar offer.

General Motors Corp., the world's biggest automaker, said its US sales fell 22.7 percent in October from a year earlier, led by a 30.3 percent decline in sales of trucks and SUVs. GM's car sales fell 10.6 percent for the month. Overall, GM's sales fell 2.7 percent for the first 10 months of the year.

Ford Motor Co.'s US sales fell 23 percent. Sales of Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury trucks and SUVs fell 30 percent compared to October 2004; car sales slipped 3.7 percent.

Asian automakers stayed out of the employee discount fray, but several experienced a downturn in October anyway. Nissan Motor Co. said US sales were down 19 percent. Hyundai Motor Co. said sales were down 7.7 percent. Toyota Motor Corp. said its overall US sales rose 5.2 percent, and Honda Motor Co. reported a 4 percent increase.

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