Robust increases in December sales were posted by all three of America’s major auto manufacturers – thanks largely to the latest round of combative financing promotions.

General Motors reported December sales up 36% year-on-year, its highest sales increase since 1979. Ford Motor Company also bettered sales, albeit by a less spectacular 8%. Chrysler, the American unit of German-US DaimlerChrysler is also believed to have ended the year on an upbeat note although it has yet to release its December sales data. German carmaker BMW also reported a double-digit boost with sales 25% up on the same month in 2001.

However, (BMW probably excepted) the gains have been at the expense of profitability at a time when the spectre of Far Eastern competition looms ever larger.

According to Deutsche Bank auto analyst Rod Lache, Japanese marques are set to raise market share by at least one percentage point during 2003 while the’ big three’ will lose 1.2 points annually until 2005. “Companies like Ford are in a defensive position and companies like Nissan and Hyundai are clearly in an offensive one, “ Lache pronounced.

GM continues to carve the biggest slice of the US auto cake with 28.4% share but Nissan and other oriental automakers are coming up fast on the rails with a collective 27.8%. Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff