DETROIT -- The new Camaro sports coupe and the redesigned Equinox SUV could help propel the Chevrolet brand to its first year-over-year sales increase since January 2008, General Motors Co.s top U.S. sales executive says.
Mark LaNeve, vice president of U.S. sales, told Automotive News on Tuesday that Chevrolet could see its sales increase sometime in the fourth quarter because of increased demand for the two new products. Both generated strong July sales.
Weve got tough year-over-year comparisons for the next couple of months. So, August and September are tough, LaNeve said. Business is good so far this month, but we had a lot of fleet sales a year ago, plus we had employee discounts a year ago.
But I think in the fourth quarter of this year you could start to see year-over-year gains, not just for Chevy but possibly for GM. We think once we get to the fourth quarter, weve got some very favorable year-over-year comparisons to compare against.
Ford brand, Chevys biggest rival, in July posted a 2.9 percent sales increase -- the first time since November 2007 that Fords sales rose year over year.
LaNeve said by the fourth quarter GM will be heavily promoting the vehicles in its four surviving U.S. brands and that could make up for sales lost from phasing out Saturn, Saab, Hummer and Pontiac. But, he said, Chevrolet stands the best chance at posting a sales increase.
We are extremely pleased with how well the Camaro is doing. Dealers are basically selling them right off the truck, LaNeve said. We think this kind of pace will continue this year and into next year.
LaNeve said demand has not tapered off, since the cars March launch. Thats a bit unusual, he said, because GM has not spent any money to advertise the car. Since June, the Camaro has outsold its main rival, the Ford Mustang -- the first time that has happened since the early 1990s.
At one point, we had 27,000 sold orders for the Camaro. I think we have worked our way to 17,000 to 18,000 of them, either delivered or in the process of being built, LaNeve said. We have 8,000 or 9,000 unsold orders yet to go, and that list keeps replenishing itself. Dealers dont have any inventory, so customers put in an order.
GM sold 7,113 Camaros in July and sold 22,510 through the first seven months of the year -- during what is widely regarded as the worst U.S. recession since World War II.
LaNave said there is some anecdotal evidence that the Camaro has helped bring consumers into Chevy showrooms to look at other vehicles.
Its hard to say what is the Camaro effect, he said.
GM sold 10,834 Equinoxes in July -- a 77.8 percent gain over the 6,095 units sold during the same month a year ago. The new Equinox arrived in dealership showrooms earlier this summer.
The new Equinox seems like it is off to a sensational start, LaNeve told Automotive News. The advertising we are doing that points out 32 mpg and a 600-mile range, its not like 1 mpg better than a Toyota, its like 5 mpg and better than the Ford Escape Hybrid.