General Motors' GM Certified brand sold its 2 millionth used vehicle last month. But sales by the company's Saturn certified program continue to sag.
Dealers say the Saturn program is too expensive. Saturn officials say they are concentrating on new-vehicle launches and face a shortage of used vehicles fit for certification.
Saturn's certified program sold 1,631 used cars and trucks in June, a 50.9 percent drop from the year-ago month. In the first six months of 2006, the brand's program sold 10,006 vehicles, 37.7 percent fewer than in the same period of 2005.
By contrast, GM Certified sales rose 3.6 percent last month over June 2005. Sales in the first half of the year were 4.1 percent higher than in the year-ago period.
The GM Certified program sells used Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac, GMC and Oldsmobile vehicles. Saturn, Saab, Hummer and Cadillac have separate certified brands.
Saturn spokesman Mike Morrissey says the company pulled back on leasing and fleet sales several years ago. That decision has greatly reduced the number of certifiable used Saturns returning to the market, he says.
"Our retailers are selling a lot of used vehicles," Morrissey told Automotive News. "They're not all certified Saturns."
Eliott James, general sales manager at Saturn of Thornton Road in the Atlanta suburb of Lithia Springs, Ga., says his dealership no longer participates in the certified program.
The costs to dealers of reconditioning, advertising and providing a factory-backed warranty for certified Saturns make the program too expensive, James says.
He says his dealership's reconditioning of used Saturns meets the program's standards. The store could rejoin the certified program, he adds, if General Motors Acceptance Corp. were to offer special finance rates similar to those that GM Certified customers can receive.
Still, James says he understands Saturn's focus on new vehicles such as the Sky roadster, Aura sedan and Outlook crossover.
"I don't blame them," he says. "You only have so much money."
Larry Beasley, a vehicle director for the public dealership group Sonic Automotive Inc., says he is a fan of GM's certified used-vehicle programs.
Sell in 3 weeks
Certified vehicles generally sell within three weeks at Sonic's GM-brand dealerships, Beasley says. Noncertified GM vehicles often take four to six weeks to sell, he says.
Certified vehicles also yield 20 to 25 percent more in gross profit than comparable noncertified vehicles, Beasley says. The certified programs also strengthen residual values of GM brands, he says.
Paul Pejza, manager of GM Certified, says dealers have embraced the brand. He says GM Certified sales are about evenly split between used cars and trucks.
Pejza would not estimate how many vehicles GM Certified will sell this year. But he notes that only 25 to 30 percent of eligible GM vehicles are certified.
"There is a lot of room to grow," he says. "We're on track to surpass last year's sales."
Overall, the industry sold 143,605 certified used vehicles last month. That was 3.1 percent more than it sold in June 2005. In the first half of 2006, the industry sold 834,364 certified used cars and trucks. That was 2.9 percent more than it sold in the year-ago period.
You may e-mail Arlena Sawyers at [email protected]