U.S. March and quarter one auto sales drop in weak start to this year

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Significant automakers on Tuesday reported weak U.S. sales for March and the first quarter, mentioning a rough start to the year, but stated a robust economy and strong labor market should support consumers to purchase more vehicles as 2019 rolls on.

Passenger-car sales had a hard time throughout the January-March quarter compared with the same period in last year as Americans continued to abandon them to favor a larger, more comfortable pickup trucks and SUVs, which are much more profitable for automakers.

The fight for market share in the particularly profitable large-pickup truck market intensified in the quarter, as Ram brand of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) outsold General Motors’s Chevrolet-brand trucks.

The two automakers have both introduced redesigned pickup trucks. Ford Motor has for decades constructed the single best-selling truck brand in its F-Series trucks, with the Chevrolet brand a No. 2 and Ram a distant third.

In the fourth quarter, the Chevrolet and Ram brands were tied for second spot behind Ford.

GM stated versions of its new Silverado pickup trucks that are already on the market increased 20 percent in the first quarter against sales of the old model in last year. GM stated it is still ramping up production of remaining variants of the truck.

Overall, U.S. new-vehicle sales are expected to reduce in this year after a long bull run since the end of the Great Recession, led by dropping passenger car sales. Competition in the high-margin SUV market is boosting.

Ford on Tuesday revealed details of the recent version of its Escape SUV, heavily emphasizing comfort showcases including a movable rear seat to provide more leg room for passengers and consumer-friendly features such as an 8-inch (20.3 cm) touchscreen and Wi-Fi connection for about 10 devices within 50 feet (15.2m) of the automobile.

General Motors and Ford do not report monthly sales.

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