Ford, GM, Toyota sales jump

LOS ANGELES — A price war sparked by Toyota Motor Corp.' s effort to regain sales lost to its recall and reliability woes sent auto sales surging in March.

Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Toyota all reported large sales gains Thursday.

Ford said its sales rose 43 percent in March, when Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealers delivered 178,546 vehicles. The gain mirrored a similar increase in February and marked the highest monthly sales increases for Ford since February 1984.

Ford wants to limit its incentives to models that directly compete with Toyota, such as its Fusion midsize car, which competes with Toyota's Camry, and the Ford Focus, which is a rival to the Toyota Corolla.

Toyota's sales shot up 41 percent to 186,863 vehicles in March following a 9 percent drop in February as consumers shied away from the brand due to continuing controversy over incidents of unintended acceleration in some of its vehicles.

Toyota executives said its strong sales month represented restored consumer confidence in the brand.

GM said its business was up 43 percent in March compared with a year ago, after factoring out the Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn and Saab brands it closed or shed as part of the automaker's bankruptcy reorganization last year.

Total combined sales for GM's remaining Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands hit 185,406 during the month. Chevrolet sales were up 41 percent, and the Buick brand rose 76 percent. Retail sales of the company's Buick LaCrosse sedan rose 144 percent.

American Honda Motor Co. said that its sale rose 22 percent to 108,262 vehicles in March compared with a year ago.