DETROIT — General Motors reported its third consecutive year of slight U.S. sales declines — capped by a softer quarter — as its growing lineup of utility vehicles couldn't offset significant drops in most of its cars.
GM said sales last year slid 1.6 percent compared with 2017 to 2.95 million vehicles — marking the first time the automaker's sales have been below 3 million since 2014. That includes a 2.7 percent decline in the fourth quarter and an estimated 3.7 percent drop in December.
GM's share of the U.S. light-vehicle market slipped to 17 percent in 2018 from 17.4 percent in 2017.
Shares in GM fell 4.1 percent to close at $32.25 in New York.
All of GM's brands recorded slight declines for the year, led by a 5.6 percent drop for Buick and a 1.4 percent slide for Chevrolet. Cadillac was down 1.1 percent, and GMC slipped 0.8 percent.
GM, which switched to quarterly reporting last year, said car sales plunged 21 percent for the year, while pickups increased 2.6 percent and crossovers/SUVs jumped 6.8 percent.
The low increase in truck sales was partially attributable to the automaker’s transition to the redesigned 2019 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups, which accounted for 17 percent of GM light-duty deliveries. By the end of January, GM said the new models are expected to be the majority of light-duty sales.
The ongoing light-duty truck changeover, according to Kurt McNeil, GM U.S. vice president of sales operations, has been of the automaker’s most successful.
“We are very bullish on pickups heading into 2019,” he said in a statement on Thursday. “The light duty launch has been one of the best in our history, with a very smooth production ramp-up of the new models and a faster than expected sell-down of the old models.”
Silverado sales were flat last year at more than 585,000 units, while Sierra sales increased 0.7 percent compared with 2017.
GM reported fleet sales for the year were up 9 percent vs. 2017 but down 4 percent in the fourth quarter. Retail sales represented 80 percent of fourth-quarter volume and 79 percent for the year.
GM’s year-end 2018 inventory was 755,000 units, essentially flat from 752,554 a year earlier.
The company estimated total U.S. sales of light vehicles will come in at 17.3 million for the year, including a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 17.7 million in the fourth quarter.
GM did not provide an outlook for its 2019 sales. That automaker is expected to provide that during an investor event on Jan. 11.