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Ford and General Motors have both reported steeper-than-expected declines in US car sales during April, underscoring fears that the market is cooling faster than anticipated after peaking last year.

US car sales are expected to fall this year after rising to a record of 17.55m in 2016, up from 17.5m the previous year.

The 12-month rolling sales figure in March – known as the seasonally-adjusted annualised rate or SAAR – was 16.5m.

The figure for April, which will be published after all of the car makers report figures, is expected to be around the 17m number.

On Tuesday Ford reported that April sales fell 7.2 per cent 214,695, slightly below the 217,000 that had been forecast by Kelley Blue Book.

Sales to fleet owners were flat at 73,933, while retail sales fell 10.5 per cent to 140,762.

Demand for larger vehicles and diesel engines meant the average selling price rose $1,900, compared to an industry average of $210.

General Motors posted a 5.8 per cent sales dip to 244,406, much steeper than the 0.5 per cent fall that had been expected by KBB.

Fleet sales fell 11 per cent to 52,495, while retail sales were down 4 per cent to 191,911. Average transaction price was up $600 to $35,000.

GM’s chief economist Mustafa Mohatarem said he remained confident sales would historically remain high.

He said:

“When you look at the broader economy, including a strong job market, rising wages, low inflation and low interest rates, and couple them to low fuel prices and strong consumer confidence, you have everything you need for auto sales to weather headwinds and remain at or near historic highs.”

Jessica Caldwell, analyst at Edmunds, said:

“The industry has been holding its breath to see if the days of peak sales are over, and while Q1 sales managed to remain stable, we’re starting to see the slowdown in 2017 we’ve been anticipating.”

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