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Pickups, retail sales power GM's 6.4% gain

Chevy's biggest U.S. gainer in July was also its highest-volume vehicle and one of its most profitable: the Silverado full-size pickup, up 34 percent. Photo credit: DAVID PHILLIPS

DETROIT -- General Motors' U.S. July sales rose 6.4 percent on strong retail volume, including a 28 percent surge in deliveries of its profitable full-size pickups.

GM's total sales of 272,512 vehicles marked the company's best July since 2007. GM said retail sales grew 14 percent while fleet sales slid 20 percent, reflecting a continued effort to reduce sales to rental companies.

Chevrolet sales rose 7.8 percent to 188,890 vehicles, propelled by a 16 percent jump in retail sales. Chevy's biggest gainer was also its highest-volume vehicle and one of its most profitable: the Silverado full-size pickup, up 34 percent.

Sales of the sibling GMC Sierra were up 13 percent. The midsize Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, launched last fall, chipped in nearly 10,000 units of incremental sales. "We feel very good about our truck strategy heading into the late summer and fall, when those segments usually heat up," Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. vice president of sales operations, said in a statement.

Incentive spending in July ticked higher, averaging 12.5 percent of average transaction prices, up from 12.1 percent a year earlier. GM said its average transaction price was about $33,800, up about 1.6 percent vs. July 2014.

Trucks, Buick surge

Trucks and crossovers continue to drive GM's sales growth amid slack demand for cars. GM said truck sales rose 15 percent and crossover sales grew 12 percent, while car deliveries slid 8.5 percent. From January through June, GM's car sales fell nearly 15 percent, the company said.

Buick's July sales rose 18 percent, to 20,791, driven by a 68 percent spike in sales of the Encore. GM has bet big on the small crossover, ramping up imports of the Korea-made vehicle by 50 percent in recent months to satisfy hot demand.

GMC sales rose 1.4 percent to 48,777 units, its best July in a decade and the ninth straight month of year-over-year increases. Strong demand for the Sierra and Acadia large crossover (up 32 percent) offset double-digit drops in sales for each of its other four nameplates.

Cadillac sales mix

Cadillac sales fell for the 10th time in the past 13 months, dropping 7.1 percent. The SRX midsize crossover was the only nameplate that posted a sales increase, up 47 percent.

Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen told Automotive News last week that sharply lower rental-car deliveries have hurt overall sales. But he was encouraged by "improvement in the sales mix," including higher average transaction prices for the ATS and CTS sedans.

GM said its rental sales fell 11 percent in the first seven months of the year and will decline more sharply during the rest of the year.

Meanwhile, GM is focusing more on the more-profitable commercial and government segments of its fleet business. Commercial deliveries, or sales to businesses, rose 17 percent through July. Sales to government customers were up 4 percent.

You can reach Mike Colias at autonews@crain.com

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