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DETROIT — Disappointing car sales, mixed with sluggish sales of light trucks, led General Motors Corp. to post a meager 0.4 percent rise in vehicle sales last month despite aggressive incentives.

GM’s car sales dropped 1.8 percent in April while light truck sales rose just 1.5 percent.

“Our sales were OK,” said Paul Ballew, GM’s executive director of market and industry analysis. “It was slightly below our estimates.

GM’s April sales were in line with listless results reported Monday by other automakers.

Ford Motor Co. posted a 4 percent decline and DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group reported a 1 percent increase.

U.S. industry sales rose just 0.8 percent last month compared to April 2003. On a seasonally-adjusted basis, sales reached 16.4 million units in April, well below forecasts, according to Autodata Corp.

Light vehicle sales are up 3.1 percent so far this year and automakers are counting on an improving U.S. economy and job growth to keep demand rising.

Sales of several GM vehicles plummeted last month, including a 21 percent decrease for the Hummer H2, a 7.6 percent decline for Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks and a 19 percent fall for the Chevrolet Malibu.

Ballew said the falloff in Hummer H2 sales was not unexpected since the vehicle had a big sales surge when it was first introduced, and inventories for newer vehicles, such as the Malibu and Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickup trucks, remain lean.

“Gas prices probably scared people off the Hummer,” said Sylvester Harper, sales manager at Suburban Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac-Hummer in Troy.

“Consumers are just having to face things like the economy and the war. They are struggles we just have to hurdle.”

Ballew downplayed the effect of rising gasoline prices on vehicle sales.

But a study released Tuesday by Harris Interactive and Kelley Blue Book showed that 17 percent of people actively shopping for a new vehicle changed their minds about their vehicle choice due to fuel prices.

And 21 percent of shoppers said they would strongly consider vehicles they hadn’t previously considered.

Another 15 percent said they would strongly consider a more fuel efficient vehicle if gas prices rose by as little as 25 cents.

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With gas prices reaching $2 for regular and climbing, you're a fool if you don't at least concider mileage when purchasing a new vehicle.
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