GM volume edges up on strong trucks, weak crossovers

DETROIT -- General Motors' pickups and SUVs stayed hot in October, but weaker demand for crossovers and cars resulted in flat overall sales for the month.

GM's retail sales fell 2 percent, while deliveries to fleet customers rose 6 percent. Overall, sales totaled 226,819, up 0.2 percent from a year earlier.

The stronger truck sales -- up 6 percent -- fueled record average transaction prices, up about $2,200 from a year earlier, to $34,700, GM said, citing J.D. Power data. The increase in average transaction prices came despite an uptick in incentive spending as a percentage of those prices vs. a year earlier.

Sales of full-size pickups, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, rose 11 percent. GM ran its Truck Month promotion for a second straight month in October, which included 0 percent financing for 72 months on heavy-duty Silverados and rebates of more than $9,000 on some light-duty models.

Chevy also ran a dealer stair-step incentive program on the Silverado in October, repeating a similar program from September.

Crossover, car sales slip

Crossover sales sank nearly 8 percent, partly a result of the discontinuation of the Chevrolet Captiva Sport, which was sold only to fleet customers. GM stopped making the U.S. version of the small crossover in August and sold just 32 of them in October, down from 4,197 a year earlier, a spokesman said. The introduction of the Chevrolet Trax in early 2015 should help replace those sales.

GM's car sales dipped 1 percent, despite a 51 percent jump in volume of the Chevrolet Cruze, GM's top-selling U.S. car. GM said its compact car sales were the highest they've been since 2003.

Sales of other Chevy cars slid sharply, including the Malibu midsize sedan and Volt plug-in hybrid (both down 29 percent) and the Sonic subcompact (down 23 percent).

Falling U.S. gasoline prices have generally hurt small car demand.

Buick leads the way

GM's incentive spending rose to 11.3 percent of its average transaction price, up from 10.2 percent a year earlier, the company said, citing J.D. Power data. GM said its incentive spending as a percentage of its average transaction prices declined from September.

Buick's 7 percent rise in sales was the strongest of GM's four brands, driven by a 33 percent jump in deliveries of the Encore small crossover. Chevy sales rose 1 percent while GMC sales slipped 1 percent.

Cadillac sales fell 8 percent amid big drops in deliveries of the SRX crossover (down 32 percent) and XTS sedan (off 28 percent). But bigger incentives and better lease deals drove a 49 percent spike in sales of the CTS sedan, helping clear 2014 models from clogged dealership lots.

Kurt McNeil, GM's vice president of U.S. sales operations, said in a statement that the improving U.S. economy and lower gasoline prices should continue to drive automotive sales higher.

He said in a statement: “The U.S. economy has steadily improved all year and now we are poised for a stronger expansion backed by an improved job market, higher consumer confidence and lower fuel prices.”

You can reach Mike Colias at mcolias@autonews.com

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