General Motors Corp. sales climbed 3.7% in February, aided by consumer demand for ’06 and ’07 fullsize light-duty pickups, plus a late-month 0% financing scheme.

Sales of both the new GMT900 and former GMT800 fullsize Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra jumped 26% and 22%, respectively. About 40% of deliveries were for ’07 models.

“The 800 half-ton sell-down has gone exceptionally well. Now we’ve turned to the 800 heavy-duty sell-down,” says Paul Ballew, GM executive director-global market and industry analysis.

Overall, GM delivered 244,717 light vehicles in January. While car sales fell 2.9% to 108,858 units, trucks rose 7.7% to 199,682 units on a daily rate basis (24 days both this year and in 2006), Ward’s data shows.

GM likely took some conquests from Ford Motor Co., which saw F-150 sales slide 15.5%. The redesigned Silverado, alone in the market for the last several months, handily faced down Toyota Motor Corp.’s new fullsize Tundra, launched the first week of February and selling below 600 units in the month.

“We’re obviously taking the competitive threat seriously, but we need to remind people that we have the best truck,” Ballew says.

GM’s plan to cut back 100,000 daily rental units in 2007, much of it in the first half, was blamed for the loss of car sales.

The auto maker reports retail sales grew 11% in February, while average transaction prices rose 3.5% in the month.

GM might have seen bigger losses in cars if not for incentives, including an expansion of the President’s Day Sale that featured 0% financing.

GM’s incentive spending averaged $2,693 per vehicle in February, up $235 from last month and $55 ahead of year-ago, according to

Ford and Chrysler Group both lowered incentives from the previous month. Japanese auto makers also cut incentive spending by $10-$1,187 per vehicle sold.

Ballew says he does not expect GM to return to a national sales incentive program, despite last month’s lift. “We feel like we’ve weathered the storm already.”

GM forecasts second-quarter production in North America to drop 62,000 units, or 5% vs. year ago, to 1.175 million vehicles – 418,000 cars and 757,000 trucks. About 40,000 fewer vehicles are attributed to cuts in daily rentals.

GM built 348,000 vehicles in the month – 129,000 cars and 219,000 trucks, down 15% vs. year ago.

Meanwhile, GM’s two new cross/utility vehicles, the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook, sold 4,283 and 1,900 units, respectively. Ballew notes the Acadia sales channel is not yet fully stocked.

Sales of the Saturn Aura sedan came in below target at 3,796 units in February, but Ballew says he expects steady improvement.

GM inventory stood at 1.05 million units, with a mix of 67% trucks and 33% cars.