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By Alan Ohnsman
Los Angeles, May 1 (Bloomberg) -- Honda Motor Co. led Asia- based automakers to another U.S. market-share gain in April, as newer models held greater appeal for many consumers than no- interest loans and rebates.

U.S. sales of new cars and light trucks fell an estimated 6.2 percent to 1.41 million compared with April 2002, according to Autodata Corp. Honda, which ranks fifth in U.S. sales, led all carmakers with an 11 percent increase, followed by South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. with 8.7 percent.

The 10 Asian carmakers that compete in the U.S. lifted their combined market share 1.6 percentage points to 32 percent, even as their sales fell 1.2 percent to 452,444, Autodata said. General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler, which offer higher incentives than Asian rivals, had respective declines of 8.7 percent, 6.7 percent and 10 percent.

``With Honda it's all about product,'' said George Peterson, president of industry researcher AutoPacific Inc. ``They've got a new Accord, Element and Pilot and the new Acura TSX, so they're nicely positioned to keep growing.''

Toyota Motor Corp., the world's third-biggest automaker and fourth in U.S. sales, had a 0.9 percent drop last month. Toyota did better than larger U.S.-based rivals even though it spent 75 percent less per car on incentives than General Motors, according to CNW Marketing Research. Analysts have said Asian companies such as Toyota need fewer incentives because their autos do better in quality surveys by Consumer Reports and J.D. Power & Associates.

Toyota said sales of its Toyota and Lexus vehicles fell to 151,784. Toyota-brand sales declined 1.4 percent to 130,507, and the Lexus luxury division rose 2.2 percent to 21,277. The automaker's market share improved 0.5 point from a year earlier to 10.7 percent.

Each market-share point represents about 165,000 vehicles a year and as much as $1.16 billion in pretax operating revenue, according to J.P. Morgan Chase Securities analyst David Bradley.

Honda sold 117,783 vehicles, with Honda-brand cars and trucks rising 13 percent to 102,725 and its Acura division gaining 1.9 percent to 15,058. Acura was helped by the addition of the TSX sport sedan, which went on sale in April. The Tokyo-based company's share rose 1.3 points to 7 percent.
 
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