July sales of the Chevrolet Malibu gave GM reason to think twice about the industry's headlong rush to small cars. The redesigned mid-sized Malibu posted a sales gain of 78.6 percent over the old Malibu's performance in July 2007 and is up 37.0 percent for the year.
Smaller Chevrolet cars couldn't approach the Malibu, in terms of percentage increase. The Aveo posted a gain of 16.9 percent, and the Cobalt was up 3.5 percent. No other Chevrolet nameplate showed an increase. Total Chevrolet sales were down 24.8 percent in July.
Overall, GM's domestic sales slumped 26.0 percent last month — an 11.4 percent loss for cars and a paralyzing 36.4 percent collapse for trucks. The Buick Enclave crossover was the only GM truck to notch a July sales increase.
Notable decliners included two full-sized pickups: the Chevrolet Silverado, down 29.8 percent, and the GMC Sierra, down 27.0 percent. Sales of the Chevrolet TrailBlazer SUV plunged 72.8 percent.
How the mighty truck has fallen. GM's domestic cars almost outsold trucks in July. The trucks led by just 850 units. In July 2007, trucks outsold cars by 52,449 units.
Last month, Chrysler LLC's sales performance was even worse than GM's. Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep deliveries plunged 28.8 percent below last year's sales.
The company's cars and trucks suffered about equally. Car sales dropped 28.2 percent; truck sales, 29.0 percent. The only Chrysler LLC nameplate to post a significant sales upturn in July was the Chrysler Town & Country minivan, which jumped 23.9 percent.
Dodge fared best of the company's three brands. Still, it was down 17.0 percent for the month. Chrysler brand sales fell 39.8 percent, and Jeep lost 39.2 percent.
Ford Motor Co.'s domestic makes took a year-to-year sales beating of 13.0 percent in July. But, surprisingly, the company's new-car sales rose 7.8 percent for the month. The Ford Focus and Fusion and the new Lincoln MKS did the work.
Focus sales — the company's chief bragging point — jumped 15.6 percent in July. That was less than the 26.2 percent gain that the Focus has posted for the year, but the blame goes to short supply, not lack of demand.
Last month the new Lincoln MKS chalked up 2,279 sales, more than double the 1,079 sales rung up in July 2007 by the Town Car, which the MKS essentially replaced as Lincoln's high-end retail model.
Otherwise, it was bad news for the Ford brand. The F-series pickup, the industry's best-selling nameplate as recently as a few months ago, was down 20.6 percent in July.
And even that plunge looked mild compared with SUV sales: The Ford Explorer took a bath of 51.8 percent. The larger Expedition took an even larger pounding, down 57.5 percent.