New
light vehicle sales in the US are set to be more encouraging following disappointing
figures for November and December 2000, says The Financial Times.

Quoting research published on Wednesday by Lehman Brothers, the FT says that
analysts believe the January selling rate, on an annualised basis, would approach
17 million units. Although below the volume achieved in the same month last
year, this figure would still surpass the 15.5 million unit selling rate recorded
in December.

Analysts stress however that this assessment is based on results to date, and
that another moderation in demand could be registered in the final week of January.
They also suggested that the market share of the “Big Three” US auto
makers could continue to decline, much to the benefit of automakers in Asia
and Europe, even if the industry improved.

The newspaper quotes GM`s chief financial officer John Devine as saying that
sales in the first part of January were ahead of expectation, although he stressed
that too much weight should not be given to this. Meanwhile DaimlerChrysler
has cancelled plans for temporary shutdowns at two plants.

Reasons for this apparent improvement include low interest rates and their
impact on consumer confidence, stock market performance and the timing of fleet
sales.

Lehman analysts predict that the near term selling rate is in the 16 million
range, even if January`s selling rate reaches the 17 million unit level, says
the FT.