The blackout that left large chunks of the Northeastern U.S. and Canada’s province of Ontario in the dark for more than 24 hours last month didn’t affect August auto sales, a General Motors Corp. executive says.

“We saw no impact,” Paul Ballew, executive director-sales and industry analysis, tells the media and analysts during a conference call. “We analyzed it every which way, and we didn’t see an impact. Sales were strong from the beginning of the month. In fact, it was one of the most consistent months I’ve ever seen.” (See related data: Ward's U.S. Light Vehicle Sales by Brand and Group)

Cadillac CTS sales rose up 29.8% in August.

The blackout hit Aug. 14 at roughly 4:15 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings time. Electricity wasn’t restored in most areas until the evening of Aug. 15. Dealerships lost one of the busiest times of the week for showroom traffic – Thursday evenings – and GM lost more than a day’s worth of deliveries in sales strongholds in Detroit, Cleveland and Ontario.

But Ballew says there is no evidence that GM suffered more than foreign nameplates, which have more sales success in areas that weren’t affected by the power outage.

“It’s really hard to find an area where you can directly relate it to the blackout,” Ballew says. “We had a great month in the Northeast, for instance. We had an OK month in the Midwest. But we had a very good month in the Midwest in July. So August was right in line with our expectations. We’re pleased to say the blackout didn’t have any lingering effect on our sales.”

The same can’t be said about production. Ward's estimates GM lost output of 12,800 vehicles due to the blackout. According to Ballew, production will be made up during the third quarter.

He credits GM’s marketing initiatives, which included cash rebates of up to $4,000, interest-free financing over five years and employee-distributed discount coupons, with maintaining the even sales pace throughout August.

“The program was effective,” Ballew says. “It rolled in from July. We had a very good July, kept the momentum going in August. The (sales) mix held; we were two-thirds trucks from the first day of August to the last day of August.

“So when you have a program that’s that successful in the market, you have a month that is very consistent – although this one was remarkably consistent. Our estimate after the first week was within 10,000 units of where we ended up. We’re usually not that precise.”

GM sold 472,427 cars and trucks in the U.S. during August, down 0.5% from the 492,435 units delivered in like-2002. As employee-distributed discounts and other summer spiffs end with the arrival of September, GM announces that it’s carrying over most of its current rebates and interest rates for ’03 vehicles until Jan. 2.

Consumers have the option of choosing from interest rates ranging from 0% to 5.9% financing over 36 to 72 months, depending on the model, or cash rebates totaling $2,000 to $4,000.

The incentives also include offers for most ’04 cars and trucks through Sept. 30, including cash rebates of up to $3,000 or 0% financing over five years for some Chevy Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfires. The spiffs are far less generous for several Cadillacs (5.9% financing and no cash rebates).

September incentives also include $500 bonus cash on ’03 and ’04 fullsize pickups; plus the Chevrolet Avalanche, TrailBlazer EXT and the GMC Envoy XL. Bonus cash also is available on most ’03 fullsize SUVs. The bonus cash offer is available until Sept. 30.