Sales of GM’s four “core brands” were up 36 percent last month [release here], however that number is compared to June 2009 sales, when GM was in bankruptcy. Even against this backdrop, however, GM’s sales show some signs of continued weakness. Though Chevrolet gained 32 percent in overall, its retail sales improved a mere 11 percent, meaning a huge number of Chevy’s sales went to fleets. Out of Buick’s 53 percent volume gain, retail sales increased only 28 percent. Cadillac had much less of a fleet problem than Buick and Chevy, increasing sales 339 percent and retail sales 35 percent. GMC did not release retail numbers for GMC, but noted that GM’s overall fleet sales were 59,571 for the month. That means nearly one in three vehicles sold by GM last month went to a fleet, a percentage that accounts for the lion’s share of GM’s sales growth. Once again, Detroit seems addicted to fleet sales…
Needless to ssay, this helps explain why a number of GM’s less-competent products sold as well as they did last month. Aveo, for example, was up 158 percent, to 5,728 units., while Cobalt was up 48 points to 10,141 units. Big trucks and SUVs likely benefitted from fleet sales as well, with Silverado breaking 30k units, Suburban and Yukon XL doubling their sales, and Malibu up 80 percent to 20,720 units.
Of course, GM’s new products helped with the 11 percent retail sales gain. LaCrosse stayed over 5k units last month, for a 173 percent increase over last June. SRX saw a 461 percent increase to 3,804 units, while its Equinox cousin added another 180 percent to 11,490 units. GMC’s Terrain also sold 4,603 units. Traverse added 56 percent to 11,371 units.
But, as is always the case, new products eventually lose their luster, and several of GM’s once hot-selling products are slackening off. Camaro is down nearly 20 percent from its high last June, moving 7,540 units. Enclave and Acadia eased up on their sales growth, adding only 20 and 26 percent respectively over last June’s weak numbers. Sierra saw a similarly stagnant June, improving just 27 percent to 11,441 units. The aging Impala and HHR both suffered 3 percent sales drops, despite likely sending a fair number of units to GM’s booming fleet business.
GM’s hot products continue to drive growth, with heartening signs coming from Buick (staying strong with the LaCrosse) and Cadillac (which benefitted from improved CTS (+31%) and strong SRX sales). Chevy, meanwhile, is likely seeing strong retail growth for its Equinox and Traverse, but it’s dead in the water on the sedan front, with only the Malibu likely making retail progress. With the launch of the Cruze looming, GM had better hope the response is strong, otherwise GM seems destined to grow only as a supplier to fleets. And as The General (and Detroit a large) has already learned, that short term growth always comes at the expense of long-term resale and brand equity.
The numbers are up, but there’s still much work to be done.