GM deliveries advance 19%; biggest jump in 3 years

GM's retail sales of trucks and SUVs surged last month. Photo credit: GM

General Motors said its sales rose 19 percent in September, its largest year-over-year gain in three years, to 223,437, with full-size pickups accounting for more than half of the increase.

GM’s fleet sales rose 30 percent, while its total retail sales increased 17 percent. By segment, retail sales declined 1 percent for GM’s lineup of cars and crossovers but surged 48 percent for trucks and SUVs.

GM posted overall gains of 54 percent for the Chevrolet Silverado and 25 percent for the GMC Sierra, with the GMC truck brand up 28 percent overall. Chevrolet and Buick each notched double-digit increases as well, while Cadillac topped its year-ago total of 13,828 by a single vehicle.

‘Across the board’

“GM saw strength almost across the board in September, and outpaced the industry with the newest trucks and SUVs at exactly the right time,” Kurt McNeil, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales operations, said in a statement. “We will have improved availability of heavy-duty pickups and large SUVs in the months ahead, and the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are arriving in showrooms as we speak. This sets us up to finish the year on a very strong note.”

GM sold 36 of the new Colorado and 11 of the Canyon in their first partial month at dealerships.

GM said its average transaction price reached about $34,600, an increase of $2,500 per unit from year-earlier levels and the most in company history, citing data from J.D. Power and Associates’ Power Information Network. It said the higher prices resulted from consumers buying more trucks and utility vehicles, which cost more and generate considerably more profits than sedans.

Up 45% or more

Across the industry, nearly four of every five retail customers who bought a large SUV last month chose a Chevrolet or GMC vehicle, GM said.

Five Chevrolet nameplates achieved increases of at least 45 percent: Corvette, Cruze, Silverado, Suburban and Traverse. The Silverado, at 50,176 units, accounted for roughly one-third of Chevrolet sales -- compared to one-fourth a year earlier -- and had its best retail month since 2008.

“With Ford F-150 production on the shelf, GM had an easier path to showcase Silverado to truck shoppers,” Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst for Edmunds.com, said in an email. “And with truck and SUV sales still chugging along at an eye-opening pace, GM has every reason to feel good about how it closed out the quarter.”

GM sales are up 4 percent through the first three quarters of the year. The only one of its four U.S. brands having a down year is Cadillac, whose sales have fallen 4 percent. In September, sales of every Cadillac model declined except the redesigned Escalade, which more than doubled, and the ELR, which wasn’t on sale in September 2013.

Fleet sales

GM said a big part of its increase in September fleet deliveries was a 46 percent jump in van sales to commercial customers. Sales to rental-car companies rose 35 percent last month “due to timing,” it said, but are only 3 percent higher so far this year.

Fleet represented 22 percent of GM’s total sales last month and 32 percent of its car sales. About 16 percent of trucks sold went to fleet customers.

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