DETROIT — General Motors on Friday reported its lowest U.S. light-vehicle sales of any quarter since its 2009 bankruptcy, with its third-quarter volume plunging 33 percent as the global microchip shortage left dealerships with little inventory to sell.
GM delivered 446,997 vehicles in the quarter, the automaker said in a statement. That's about 42,000 fewer than it sold in the second quarter of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic shut down auto production and much of the U.S. economy. The first quarter of 2009, when GM sold 406,770 vehicles during the trough of the Great Recession, was the last time the company posted worse U.S. results, according to the Automotive News Data & Research Center.
The Escalade carried the Cadillac brand, with sales more than doubling as Cadillac's five other nameplates plummeted. Arlington Assembly, the Texas plant that builds the Escalade and other full-size SUVs, is the only GM plant that has avoided downtime during the chip shortage. Sales of the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Suburban, also built in Arlington, each climbed more than 23 percent.
The Encore GX, up 3 percent, was the only Buick nameplate to increase sales last quarter.
"GM has been agile and decisive in managing COVID-related impacts on our production and wholesale volumes and we appreciate the support of our dealers and the loyalty of our customers," Steve Carlisle, president of GM North America, said in the statement. "As we look to the fourth quarter, a steady flow of vehicles held at plants will continue to be released to dealers, we are restarting production at key crossover and car plants, and we look forward to a more stable operating environment through the fall."
During the third quarter, GM shipped dealers more than 68,000 vehicles that had been held at assembly plants as they awaited chips.
Buick had the most inventory of GM's four U.S. brands, as of Aug. 31, according to Cox Automotive. The crossover brand had a 39-day supply, compared with a supply of 33 days for Cadillac and about 22 days for both Chevrolet and GMC. Industrywide, brands had an average supply of 30 days, Cox said.
CFO Paul Jacobson last month warned that GM would sell about 200,000 fewer vehicles in the second half of the year vs. the first as coronavirus cases impact the supply chain in Malaysia. The company already exceeded that decline in the third quarter alone.
Despite the production shutdowns and a $1.8 billion Chevrolet Bolt recall, GM is maintaining its guidance of $11.5 billion to $13.5 billion in adjusted earnings this year.
Brands: Buick, down 20%; Cadillac, down 32%; Chevrolet, down 36%; GMC, down 27%
Notable nameplates: Buick Enclave, down 23%; Encore GX, up 3%; Envision, down 4.2%; Cadillac Escalade, up 123%; CT5, down 80%; XT4, down 91%; XT5, down 42%; Chevy Blazer, down 64%; Bolt EV/EUV, down 21%; Silverado, down 17%; Colorado, down 53%; Corvette, up 60%; Malibu, down 99%; Suburban, up 28%; Tahoe, up 4.7%; Trailblazer, up 147%; Traverse, down 66%; GMC Sierra, down 22%; Yukon, up 24%
Q3 incentives: $3,062 per vehicle, down 44% from a year earlier, TrueCar says.
Q3 average transaction price: $45,431, up 9.3% from a year earlier, according to TrueCar.
Fleet mix: 12.8% of total sales, GM says, with rental sales remaining very low. In in the third quarter of 2020, fleet mix was 12.2%.
Inventory: Including in-transit vehicles, dealer inventory was 128,757 units at the end of the third quarter. GM expects inventory levels to improve in the fourth quarter.
Quote: "While supply has been constraining sales in recent months, underlying demand conditions remain strong, thanks to ample job openings, growing pent-up vehicle demand and excess savings accumulated by many households during the pandemic," said Elaine Buckberg, GM chief economist. "We expect to continue selling every vehicle we can produce with rapid turnover."
Did you know? Toyota Motor North America has outsold GM in the U.S. through three quarters of 2021 by about 80,000 vehicles. GM has been the largest U.S. automaker every year since passing Ford Motor Co. in 1931.