GM gains share for first time in decade
GMC -- up 19 percent to nearly 400,000 units -- posted the biggest percentage gain in U.S. sales last year among GM's four core brands.
Photo credit: BLOOMBERG
DETROIT -- General Motors posted a 13 percent U.S. sales increase last year, to 2.5 million vehicles, gaining market share for the first time since 2002.
The automaker boosted its U.S. share by about half of a percentage point, to 19.6 percent.
The last time GM lifted its share of U.S. sales was 2002, when its hugely successful "Keep America Rolling" promotion following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks helped increase its share to 28.6 percent from 28.3 percent the previous year.
GM's sales gains for 2001 year cooled toward the end of the year, though. For December, the automaker's sales rose 5 percent, led by Chevrolet, while GM's other three brands posted year-over-year declines.
GM's December sales were hurt by waning demand for its popular crossovers. Sales of the Chevy Equinox dropped 20 percent from December 2010, to 18,195 units. Sales of the GMC Terrain fell 17 percent, to 7,724.
Meanwhile, sales of Ford Motor Co.'s Escape crossover, which is in its final model year before a redesign due out later this year, soared 37 percent in December to a monthly record of 25,574. Ford said it hasn't changed its incentives on the vehicle for at least the past three months.
For the year, GM's crossovers were one of its biggest bright spots, with the Equinox up 29 percent and the Terrain up 37 percent.
Don Johnson, GM's U.S. sales boss, said a reduction in fleet sales contributed to the December decline. This fall, GM began importing the Captiva crossover to quell fleet demand for the Equinox and free up availability for retail customers. In December, 1,983 Captivas were sold.
"On a retail basis, we performed very well," Johnson told analysts and reporters during a conference call.
Overall, GM's car sales rose 12 percent, and sales of pickups and SUVs were up 13 percent, while crossover sales dropped 14 percent.
Chevy the lone gainer
Chevrolet sales grew 9 percent in December, led by strong sales of the Cruze compact, up 54 percent from a year earlier. Sales of the Sonic subcompact, which was launched in August, rose 42 percent in December compared with sales of its predecessor, the Aveo.
Cadillac sales dropped 3 percent, to 16,259, partly because of the recent phaseout of the DTS and STS sedans. Sales of GM's luxury brand also have declined because of an intentional drop in deliveries to fleet customers. Fleet sales were down 81 percent in December and 33 percent for the year, said Kurt McNeil, Cadillac's sales chief.
"We're committed to being a serious, tier one luxury player, and that's where we need to be," McNeil said of the sharper focus on retail over fleet sales.
In December, GMC sales slipped by 183 units from a year earlier to 41,960 units. Buick sales fell 12 percent to 14,974, partly because of a 69 percent drop in sales of the outgoing Lucerne sedan. The brand is counting on its new Verano compact to help offset lost sales from the Lucrene, but it added only 261 units as GM ramps up the car's rollout.
For all of 2011, all four GM brands' sales rose in the United States. GMC sales rose 19 percent; Chevrolet and Buick sales, 14 percent each; and Cadillac sales, 4 percent.
You can reach Mike Colias at email@example.com.