YES, THE NUMBERS LOOK dismal: First-quarter vehicle sales were off 7% from 1994 levels at Chrysler, 8% at GM and 4% at Ford. And Chairman Robert Eaton warned that Chrysler's earnings could suffer in both the first and second quarters. But Detroit's future isn't so bleak. Production was up at both GM and Ford. And GM's numbers were its highest for a first quarter since 1989, though it now says second-quarter production will come in some 1% below the year-ago quarter. Retail incentives, while rising, remain at relatively modest levels. First-quarter earnings at GM and Ford, in fact, should improve over last year.

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