DETROIT -- General Motors' best month for pickup sales in four years helped slash the company's bloated truck inventory and propelled GM to a 5 percent sales gain for December.
But that 5 percent gain, to 245,733 vehicles, trailed the industry's 9 percent increase.
All four GM brands posted increases. Cadillac rose 12 percent; Buick was up 10 percent; GMC increased 5 percent; and Chevy rose 4 percent.
For the year, GM's sales rose 4 percent to 2,595,717 units, well below the industry's 13 percent growth.
In 2012, Chevrolet and GMC sales each rose 4 percent, Buick sales increased 2 percent, and Cadillac sales fell 2 percent.
GM's 2012 market share slipped to 17.9 percent, down from 19.6 percent in 2011 and 19.1 percent in 2010. GM's share rose in 2011 when Japanese brands were short of supply after the March 2011 earthquake in Japan.
Combined December sales of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-sized pickups -- which together are GM's highest-volume vehicles and among the most profitable -- rose 8 percent. That helped erase an inventory glut that worried both dealers and investors for much of the year.
GM said it had 221,649 pickups in inventory on Dec. 31, or an 80-day supply. That's down dramatically from the 139-day supply GM has on Nov. 30 but slightly higher than the 200,000-220,000 range GM previously had forecast.
Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, said GM's stock of 2013 Silverados and Sierras is in good shape as the company prepares to move to its next generation of full-sized pickups. Production of those 2014 models is scheduled to begin this spring.
'Where we want to be'
"We're pretty much right where we want to be for the changeover," Reuss told analysts and reporters during a conference call today. He said that the overhaul of GM's truck plants is going "extremely well," and that engines and stamping facilities are being brought on line.
Higher incentives helped reduce the pickup stockpile. For December, GM gave dealers the option of adding as much as $2,000 in customer cash on 2012 and 2013 Silverados and Sierras. That was in addition to discounts of as much as $4,000 on some models.
Across its vehicle lineup, GM's incentives rose $100 per unit from a year earlier, said Kurt McNeil, GM's vice president of sales operations. That was "enough to level the playing field with our competitors and sharply accelerate our sales without losing pricing discipline."