Ward’s preliminary look at first-quarter 2005 reveals sales nearly even with like-2004 and bloated inventories at the end of the quarter, despite slower production rates by the two biggest vehicle manufacturers. Restraint on incentives; higher interest rates, forcing up the cost to dealers carrying large amounts of inventory; and a cautious economic outlook call for a conservative first-quarter forecast that sees a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 16.4 million, down from ...

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