Detroit legend General Motors (GM) has unveiled a slump in profits at its core car production arm.
GM cars are competing in a crowded market
The company said its car division earned $396m (£218m) in the final three months of 2003, down by 24% on the same period one year earlier.
Overall earnings came in little changed at $1bn, thanks mainly to record profits from GM's GMAC finance unit, which specialises in mortgage lending.
But GM said new models would help lift car sales in the year ahead.
"As we continue our aggressive new product cadence, we are optimistic about increasing market share in 2004," said GM chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner.
The American car industry is struggling against tepid consumer demand and tough competition from low-cost Asian rivals, many of whom have set up production facilities in the US.
GM and other US carmakers have resorted to aggressive sales incentives, a tactic which has kept the showrooms busy at the expense of slimmer profit margins.
But GM said it expected conditions to improve in the months ahead, with global car sales rising about 3% in 2004 to a new record of 60 million vehicles.
The firm hopes to increase its share of the US market, which in 2003 fell to 28% from 28.3% the previous year.
The latest figures from GM's car unit mark an improvement from the third quarter, when profits from the division came in 90% down on the same period one year earlier.
GM shares were down 40 cents at $53.67 in afternoon trade in New York.