DETROIT -- General Motors is running an unusually broad sales incentive for Chevrolet dealerships this summer to pump up car sales.
Sales of 2014 and 2013 Impalas, Camaros, Cruzes and Sonics are eligible under a GM stair-step program for August. The program pays dealers escalating bonuses as they hit factory-set sales thresholds. Sales of 2013 Malibus also are included; the 2014 model of the mid-sized sedan goes on sale this fall.
GM ran a similar program for the Cruze, Sonic and Malibu in June and added the Impala and Camaro in July and August. It retroactively pays dealers as much as $1,000 per unit on a percentage of the cars they sell over their GM-set targets, according to a summary of the program sent to dealers.
Chevy car sales have been hot during the stair-step incentive period, including a 31 percent rise in July. Cruze sales spiked 70 percent last month and 73 percent in June, to 32,871 units, the highest level since the compact car's fall 2010 launch.
The June program marked the first major stair-step incentive of the year for GM, dealers say. The company had been relatively quiet on dealer incentives since running several stair-step programs during the first half of 2012.
Dealers say it's unusual for GM to include so many nameplates in one stair-step program. Some also were surprised that the incentive includes the redesigned 2014 Impala, which has won critical praise since its May debut, including being rated the top sedan by Consumer Reports.
GM spokeswoman Ryndee Carney declined to discuss specifics but said GM uses stair-step incentives "in a targeted, strategic way."
"Compared to some other OEMs, our payouts are modest and our objectives are reasonable," Carney wrote in an e-mail.
Stair-step programs are controversial among retailers. Some complain that they disrupt local market dynamics as stores chase bonus payments through artificially low pricing. Some dealers say that the pricing gyrations hurt customer satisfaction.
GM's goal is to gain U.S. market share this year, CEO Dan Akerson said in January. Through July, its market share was 18.1 percent, up from 18.0 percent for the same period a year earlier, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
Through July, GM's sales were up 9 percent for the year, to 1.65 million, vs. 8 percent growth for the industry. Chevy, which accounted for 71 percent of GM's sales, was up 7 percent.