September US car sales are expected to slow from August’s torrid pace, as the level of buyer incentives eases but sales could still be a little stronger than a year ago as analysts see results, to be reported on October 1, coming in at an annual adjusted rate of around 16.5 million to 17 million vehicles, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

Dow Jones noted that industry sales last September were 16.3 million vehicles, reported at an annual adjusted rate and, last month, sales rose to an adjusted 19 million vehicles, driven by incentives designed to clear out 2003 models.

Sales at General Motors, the world’s largest car maker, are expected to be about 14% higher than last September, analyst Ronald Tadross at Banc of America Securities, wrote in a report on Thursday, according to Dow Jones. The report added that he sees GM picking up US market share, to 28.3%, compared with 25.1% last year.

“GM’s increase in market share and retail sales is driven by easy comps on a year ago basis, and strong truck sales,” the analyst reportedly wrote.

Both Ford and Chrysler are expected to show lower year-over-year sales and a fall off in market share, analysts said, according to Dow Jones.

Goldman Sachs analyst Gary Lapidus reportedly sees Ford’s September sales dropping by 10%, and Chrysler’s sales down 13%, compared with last year. The US car makers are “suffering intense competition from Toyota, Honda and Nissan,” the analyst wrote, according to Dow Jones, which added that Tadross believes they’ll fare a little better, with Ford’s September sales down 4% compared with last year, and Chrysler’s off 9%.

According to Dow Jones, Lapidus wrote on Thursday that, based on GM’s strong sales performance, the Big Three US car makers should record a US market share of 59% in September, better than the lowest-ever monthly market share of 57.9% posted in August this year.

Dow Jones noted that all of the Big Three US car makers have continued to use generous incentives to sell 2003 models, and the new 2004 models haven’t been totally immune to special deals, while higher than normal inventories are coming down, though the number of unsold vehicles at the Big Three is still higher than last year.

According to Dow Jones, Lapidus wrote that Ford’s inventories at the end of September will be 30% higher than normal, with Chrysler’s inventories running 20% higher and GM’s 10% higher. “We expect the Big Three inventory to be at 30% above normal at the year-end, assuming fourth quarter production schedules remain unchanged, and October-December adjusted sales of 16.5 million light vehicles, which is consistent with our full year sales estimate of 16.6 million light vehicles,” Lapidus reportedly wrote.

Dow Jones said the car makers are expected to discuss production schedules when they host monthly conference calls on October 1.