UPDATE 1-Brazil auto sales strong in March, output slips

* Output slips 0.4 pct as automakers unload inventories

* Sales climb 11.7 pct; Fiat retains top spot in market
(Recasts; Adds breakdown of sales by automaker)

SAO PAULO, April 7 (Reuters) – Automobile production in
Brazil slipped 0.4 percent in March from February as
manufacturers unloaded inventories, while sales jumped 11.7
percent on the back of strong consumer demand in Latin
America’s largest economy.

Automakers in Brazil produced 319,363 new cars and trucks
last month, and sold 306,135 vehicles, the national automakers
association Anfavea said on Thursday. Auto output had surged
18.7 percent and sales had risen 12 percent in February.

Brazil, whose economy grew a hefty 7.5 percent last year,
is a key market for the world’s biggest automakers, including
Italy’s Fiat SpA (FIA.MI: Quote, Profile, Research), Germany’s Volkswagen AG (VOWG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research)
and U.S.-based General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Ford Motor Co
(F.N: Quote, Profile, Research). Asian automakers are also increasing their presence
here.

Fiat again retained the top spot in Brazil’s auto market in
March, selling 64,539 vehicles, a 6.3 percent increase from
February. Volkswagen was second with sales of 58,374 cars and
trucks, a 6.9 percent increase over the previous month.

GM sold 55,269 vehicles in March, a 19.3 percent jump from
February, while Ford sales surged 17 percent to 27,673 cars and
trucks.
(Reporting by Jose de Castro, Writing by Todd Benson; Editing
by Gerald E. McCormick and Maureen Bavdek)

UPDATE 1-Brazil auto sales strong in March, output slips