GM trucks, fleet drive 18% gain; pricing jumps

GM delivered 8,000 midsize pickups, led by the Chevy Colorado.

DETROIT -- Big demand for trucks and a spike in deliveries to fleet customers sent General Motors’ January sales up 18 percent from a year ago, the company’s best start to a year since 2008.

GM's fleet sales rose 32 percent while retail deliveries increased 14 percent, for a total of 202,786 vehicles.

Truck sales surged 47 percent, helped by sharp increases for the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL and Cadillac Escalade. Combined sales of the big SUVs more than doubled from a year earlier, when redesigned models were just hitting showrooms.

GM's truck sales also got a lift from more than 8,000 deliveries of its new midsize pickups, the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Combined sales of the full-sized Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups rose 22 percent.

Crossover sales were strong, too, rising 23 percent. That included a 34 percent jump for the Chevy Equinox, the midsize crossover's best January since its debut more than a decade ago. GM confirmed that it will show a freshened Equinox next week at the Chicago Auto Show.

GM's car sales sank 7.3 percent, though, amid falling gasoline prices.

“Consumer and commercial demand for trucks and crossovers is really driving our business," Kurt McNeil, GM's vice president of sales operations, said in a statement. He said the launch last fall of the Colorado and Canyon, and GM's decision to enter the budding small-crossover market with the Buick Encore and Chevy Trax, were "well-timed."

GM's strong truck sales drove its overall average transaction prices per vehicle up about $2,400 from a year earlier, to $34,800 through Jan. 25, according to J.D. Power estimates supplied by GM.

GM spent an average of $3,314 per vehicle on incentives in the month, up 5 percent from a year earlier, according to TrueCar.

GMC turned in the strongest sales increase of GM's four brands. Its sales rose 29 percent, including a 25 percent gain for the Terrain crossover and Yukon deliveries that more than doubled.

Chevrolet sales rose 20 percent, following a 21 percent gain in December. Pickups and SUVs drove the results while car sales were mixed. Sales of the Spark minicar (up 72 percent) and Cruze compact (up 11 percent) were offset by weak demand for the Impala large sedan (down 23 percent) and Sonic subcompact (off 47 percent).

Cadillac snapped a seven-month skid of lower or flat volume with a 2.6 percent sales increase. Escalade SUV shipments more than doubled. But sales of core nameplates dropped, including the CTS (down 24 percent) and SRX (off 22 percent).

Buick sales slipped 5.5 percent amid lower demand for its aging sedans, the LaCrosse (down 29 percent) and Regal (off 45 percent).

You can reach Mike Colias at autonews@crain.com

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