March auto madness [Archive] - Ford Inside News Community

: March auto madness

03-05-2007, 05:01 PM

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- This week marks the opening of the spring selling season for automakers and dealers. Get ready for some especially intense activity.

Sales have been weak this year as buyers struggle with collapsing real estate prices and slower economic growth, and auto companies need a lift - badly. DaimlerChrysler's (Charts) Chrysler unit is up for sale, Ford (Charts) is facing its worst-ever financial crisis and GM (Charts) is just emerging from one.Ford and Chrysler fired the first shots last week when they rolled out new incentives to spark some sales-floor action. Ford is offering cheap leases and subsidized payments, while Chrysler is pitching cash rebates along with free upgrades to Hemi engines.

A strong spring season can be make-or-break for automakers. They need to move a lot of metal when customers are in a mood to buy it. And they only have a short time in which to do it, because the end of the model year is just around the corner. By July, dealers will be running clearance sales to get rid of their '07 inventory so they can begin stocking '08s in the fall.