GM July U.S. sales off 6%; pickups, fleet sales sag
Buick Verano sales totaled 4,235 last month, putting a dent in Regal demand.
DETROIT -- General Motors' sales fell 6 percent in July to 201,237, on weaker demand for pickups and a drop in deliveries to rental car companies, the company said Wednesday.
Three of GM's four brands -- Chevrolet, GMC and Buick -- had lower sales than in July 2011. Cadillac sales rose 21 percent to 13,417 on strong demand for the SRX crossover and the recently launched XTS large sedan.
A slowdown in sales of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra kept stocks of pickup trucks high. GM said it had 238,165 pickups on dealer lots at the end of July, a 136-day supply.
Silverado sales fell 13 percent, and Sierra sales dropped 12 percent. It was the first month this year that sales of GM's full-sized pickups have declined from 2011 levels.
No change in pickup plans
GM executives said that the weaker demand and swollen inventories haven't changed their plans for pickup production or incentives.
"I wouldn't draw any conclusions from July," said Alan Batey, GM's vice president of U.S. sales and service. "It has not made any significant difference to our inventory or our strategy. We are not seeing this as a warning signal."
Batey said he expects pickup sales to improve in coming months, citing pent-up demand and indicators pointing to an improving housing market.
GM had built extra inventory to offset lost factory time from the retooling of its three U.S. truck plants prior to the introduction next year of redesigned pickups and SUVs.
Chevy off 7 percent
Big drops in sales of Chevy's most popular cars contributed to a 7 percent overall decline for GM's mainstay brand, to 138,942. Sales of the Chevy Cruze, which soared a year earlier when Japanese rivals struggled with earthquake-related shortages, fell 39 percent to 14,954.
GM said most of the drop stemmed from selling virtually no Cruzes to fleets in July. A year earlier, fleet sales made up 23 percent of the 24,648 Cruzes sold.
Malibu sales fell 37 percent as GM sold off stocks of 2012 models prior to the launch next month of the redesigned 2013 Malibu with a 2.5-liter engine, which is expected to be the best selling model. GM's supply of Malibus fell to 28 days by the end of July.
Buick sales fell 15 percent to 14,391. Sales of the mid-sized Regal sedan plunged 49 percent to 1,784, but that was more than offset by 4,235 sales of the Verano compact, which was launched in December and appears likely to become Buick's volume leader. But sales fell for each of Buick's other nameplates, the Enclave, LaCrosse and Lucerne.
Verano steps into Regal's role
Brian Sweeney, vice president of sales and service for Buick-GMC, said the Verano has taken the entry-level slot that Regal had filled.
"Regal is delivering on its role" of becoming the sporty option in Buick's lineup, Sweeney said, noting that 20 percent of Regal sales were of the GS performance model, the highest since the car was launched last summer.
GMC's sales declined 9 percent to 34,487, pushed down by a 29 percent drop in sales of its Acadia full-sized crossover.
Although GM sales were down, executives emphasized higher prices that have resulted from an improved lineup and lower incentives. In July, GM's average transaction price rose $260 per unit, said Kurt McNeil, vice president of GM's sales operations.
"Our strategy," McNeil said, is to "transform our brands with new products, grow our retail sales and significantly improve our average transaction prices."
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