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U.S. new auto sales expected to decline

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U.S. new vehicle sales are forecast to fall about 0.9 percent this month as Bridgestone Corp.'s recall of 6.5 million tires hurts sales of light trucks at Ford Motor Co., its biggest customer.

Ford's sales of North American-built light vehicles are forecast to fall 9.5 percent from the year-earlier month, its best August. General Motors Corp. sales may fall 3.8 percent.

The declines at GM and Ford, the world's biggest automakers, come amid discount-driven gains at rivals. Sales are forecast to rise 1.5 percent at DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler arm, its first monthly sales gain since May, while Asian and European automakers are expected to gain sales and market share.

U.S. sales would have been little changed from August 1999 — at the time, the best month since 1986 — if it weren't for the recall's impact on Ford, according to the forecasts by Luckey Consulting Group. Discounts and a strong economy have kept 2000 moving toward matching last year's record 16.96 million vehicles.

"It's a wash compared to last August — and that's not a bad thing, because August 1999 was terrific," said Frank Ursomarso, a Wilmington, Delaware, dealer who owns Ford, Pontiac-GMC, BMW and Honda franchises.

The month's estimated annual selling rate will slip to 17.3 million from the year-earlier rate of 17.4 million, Luckey said. The rate has been at least 17.1 million each month this year.