The three biggest US automakers reported a fall in U.S. new vehicle sales in February as the North American auto industry extends the gentle slowdown that began last year.

Financial Times reported that General Motors saw February new vehicle sales down 6.9% from the same month last year, at 220,905. Rival Ford sales also fell 6.9% to 194,132. Fiat Chrysler, the smallest of the Big 3 by volume, reported sales down 1% from the year earlier, at 165,903. Other automakers are also expected to report February sales declines.

The auto market is responding to a confusing mix of negative and positive factors as interest rate rises begin to hit auto loan rates, while the impact of strong equity markets, low unemployment and tax reform on consumers and the broader economy continues to bolster demand.

“This year is going to be a bitter but necessary pill for the auto industry to swallow,” said Jessica Caldwell, analyst at Edmunds, the auto consultancy. “Automakers are trying to find the right balance between keeping sales strong and becoming too dependent on costly incentives. The industry is still in a fairly healthy place, but it may not feel like it since the last few years have been in record territory.”

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