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Toyota Motor Corp. / Ford Motor Co. rose more than 40 percent in March

Custom Ford Fusion

General Motors Co. posted a 21 percent increase in March U.S. sales while Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. rose more than 40 percent as higher incentives industrywide helped lure buyers to showrooms.

Ford, which advanced for the sixth straight month, was outsold by Toyota and GM in March after leading the industry in February. Toyota’s 41 percent gain was aided by richer incentives aimed at luring buyers after its recall crisis.

“Retail sales were really artificially inflated by huge incentives going on in the marketplace and did not reflect true demand,” said Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis at Edmunds.com. “April will be a good indicator of real consumer demand.”

Overall U.S. sales rose 24 percent from the depressed levels of March 2009, when automakers were battling the weakest demand in almost three decades. The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 11.7 million was the year’s highest and the second strongest since August, when the U.S. cash-for-clunkers campaign lifted demand

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