Chrysler LLC saw its U.S. sales drop 19.4% last month compared to March last year, the automaker announced this afternoon.
The automaker, which sold 166,386 vehicles last month, blamed the decrease on the sustained and planned reduction of daily-rental fleet sales and an industry-wide slowdown.
“We are in a period where the public hears news about the economy every day and it is clearly having an impact on our industry,” Jim Press, Chrysler president and vice chairman, said in a statement. “At the same time, this market environment is driving more customers to our newest value-oriented, fuel-efficient products like Jeep Patriot, Dodge Journey, Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring. Chrysler's strategy to right-size our operations, increase fuel efficiency and reduce daily rental fleet sales will help us get through this period as a stronger company with healthier dealers.”
Sales of the automaker’s cars were down 13% last month, trucks were down 21.7%.
Sales of the redesigned Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans were both down, compared with last March. Combined minivan sales fell by 10.6%, as the Chrysler minivan lost little ground, but Dodge minivan sales plunged more than 20%.
Chrysler was not alone in posting down numbers for March. Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. were all down last month.
Automakers have said they do not expect the U.S. auto market to improve until at least the second half of this year — some have said it could be until 2009 before things look better.