By on November 4, 2010

With GM’s IPO officially launched, we thought we’d send ChartOTD diving inside GM’s sales performance this year. The graph above shows GM’s top nameplates by volume for the January-October 2010 period, compared to the same ten months of 2009. All of GM’s top-ten volume vehicles are doing better than they did last year, but these are not in fact GM’s fastest-growing nameplates. For that graph and more, hit the jump…

“Fastest growing” is a phrase marketers like because it’s a fairly subjective measure, dependent entirely on the period in which you compare sales and often skewed by production-related interruptions. That’s the case here, as GM’s fastest-growing nameplate, the GMC Terrain, only started started production in August of last year, meaning we’re comparing 10 months worth of sales to two months. Still, the Terrain’s two months of sales in ’09 yielded roughly the same as the GMC Envoy’s first ten months of ’09, so the Terrain gets to keep its “fastest-growing” title.

The obvious conclusion to take from this graph is that new models are yielding big sales in their first several years on the market. The less-obvious lesson: big-volume nameplates aren’t growing all that fast. Still, growth is good… which brings us to the next chart.

Yes, they’re GM’s fastest-dropping nameplates. The ten deadly sales sins, if you will (incidentally, all of these graphs are based on “core” brands only). Again, ignore the king of the chart, as XLR has always been sold at meaninglessly low volumes. The obvious losers are the Canyon/Colorado twins, for which no update, refresh, or replacement has been announced. Cadillac’s STS (now V8-free for 2011) and Buick’s Lucerne are entering the last months of their lives, while Escalades and Yukons are actually remaining remarkably consistent. GM can be proud that no big-volume nameplates are experiencing negative growth, although the Impala is the slowest-growing nameplate, making it the perfect vehicle to round out the “bottom ten.” The fact that the Impala (like most of the cars on this list) doesn’t have an obvious replacement on the horizon is another worrying sign. GM’s new cars are selling fast, but the new hotness is still stuck next to some old-and-bustedness on the sales lot. If there’s a key to winning the perception game in the auto industry it’s consistency… and GM still isn’t as consistent as it needs to be.

Still, in the first full year of sales post-bankruptcy, GM’s brands enjoyed relatively strong growth. In fact, Buick, Cadillac and GMC have been the three “fastest growing” brands in the American market since GM underwent government-supported bankruptcy.

And since January of this year, that growth has only accelerated. Buick is up over 50 percent compared to the first ten months of 2009, making it the fastest growing brand in America this year. Cadillac and GMC are numbers two and three respectively. Even Chevy is outpacing the roughly ten percent market growth, and because of its volume is ten times that of Buick, it’s bringing a lot more volume to The General.

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30 Comments on “Chart(s) Of The Day: What Makes GM Tick...”


  • avatar
    DubTee1480

    And speaking of new hotness, oh how I pine for the RWD Impala that they teased us with a few years ago that was supposed to be released in 2011-2012.  Heck, they even stopped production of the V8 SS recently.  If I’m going to replace my ’04 Impala SS with something in a few years it’s not looking like it’s going to be another Impala.

  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    I’m impressed by how hard TTAC tries to put a story together:
    1. lower-priced mass-market Chevies sell the most
    2. new cars outsell old cars
    3. dying cars sell poorly

    The interesting things to me:
    1. GMC Acadia is a top-seller for GM, showing just how strong the Lambda platform really is.
    2. all-new GMC Terrain shows there’s a market for a smaller, upmarket car-replacing CUV
    3. GM’s 10th weakest car still grew by nearly 5%.

    Based on this, I think GM’s doing fine. The only question is when GM breaks cover on the next generation of hotness.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s no “trying to put a story together” here… just pulling together numbers and letting them speak for themselves. I agree that the general outlook based on these numbers is good, no question. If the Cruze starts outselling the Cobalt significantly, GM’s momentum will be impossible to deny.
      Assuming the Cruze does take off, proving GM can make a desirable car in just about any segment, there are a few questions:

      1-How long will Buick, Caddy and GMC keep growing, and where will they find their level? Will Buick’s smaller, Opel-based future models help or hurt the brand? What happens to Cadillac if/when the SRX tapers off?

      2-How long will newer “hot” models (Terrain, Camaro, LaCrosse, SRX) stay hot?

      3-Will Impala, Colorado/Canyon be replaced, and if so, when?

      In any case, it’s impossible to not see that GM has improved its performance since bankruptcy.
       

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        Ed, Thanks! Great to see a positive note! I have a niggling complaint. I think it a little misleading to call Buick’s new models Opel-based. That is spot on for the Regal, but it was just a stop gap to bring a lower end car into the B-P-G channel to keep the dealers going after Pontiac was killed. It will be assembled in America soon, and I expect very specific Buick focus on future iterations. Of course, I believe them when they say they will bring better focus with just the 4 core brands in the U.S. I also understand how resources were stretched in the bad old days with 8 puppies to feed. A favorite phrase was you have to feed all the puppies or they will die. Olds was the first to go.   

        GM’s structure rationalizes design centers, but that does not mean the centers won’t focus on brand attributes for specific models. BTW- that is no different than other Global competitors Toyota and Ford who utilize a number of engineering centers around the world for multiple brands.

        I was amazed while researching sales volumes to learn that Honda, for example, gets 61% of total sales from just 3 models, Accord, Civic and CR-V. Ford is likewise dependent on just 4 models for 57% of its total volume, including Acura & Lincoln-Mercury in those corporate total numbers. Toyota gets almost 46% from 3 models. I remembered Olds glory days with just 3 of the top 10 selling vehicles generating a huge share of our million car years. 
        My point is that all it takes is a couple of hot models and sales can grow dramatically. GM at this point generates 54% of sales on 6 models on the Car & Truck top ten lists. Buick, GMC and Cadillac has plenty of room for growth. They just need the upcoming models to be winners. It only takes a couple of them and every recent release appears to be well recieved as you not. 

    • 0 avatar
      DubTee1480

      I believe the Canyon and Colorado are already on the chopping block with no announced replacement.  I hadn’t thought of it earlier, but the Impala might not get replaced…  Look at Nissan’s line up where the Altima sits where the Maxima used to sit and the Sentra sitting where the Altima used to with the Versa rounding out the bottom.  The Maxima is being taken up market and presumably competing with Infiniti.  You can see similar car sizing issues developing at Toyota and Honda, though they don’t seem to be trying to take the Accord or Camry upmarket.  GM might be planning on killing the Impala and selling you a Buick instead.  The Malibu is doing rather well and you have the Cruze and the Aveo (or it’s replacement) underneath it.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      OK, it just seemed like you were trying to do more, making something to tie to the IPO and all the hoopla.

      Anyhow, as I see it:
      1b. Buick has a *lot* of room to grow – lots of holes in their lineup: small IS-fighting Astra hatch, Equinox/SRX RX-fighter, big & plush LS-fighting Park Avenue (“Invicta”), midsize G-fighting fastback 2+2 coupe, Volt-based Electra. That’s basically doubling their line, so they could conceivably triple to become GMC-sized.

      1c. Caddy has somewhat less room to grow, being a premium brand, New SotW, and all that. Proper Cien-like hard-top sports car, super-premium Fleetwood Brougham, on top of the coming ATS and XTS. And their CUVs aren’t right – Caddy should follow the BMW model with X5 and X6 fighters. Perhaps, Caddy can double in 3 to 5 years (because their base is somewhat small), but these are basically all-new, and they all need to be excellent out of the gate.

      1g. GMC has probably the least room to work with, as GMC already sells a lot, and pretty successfully. GMC can’t really sell cars, but adding wagons wouldn’t follow the brand as well as a few more car-replacement CUVs like the Terrain. Where GMC could really grow is with neo-HUMMER trail-rated off-roaders, like Jeep / Land Rover. Maybe 30% to 50% is possible.

      2. Everybody’s going to slower cycles, so as long as GM pumps a reasonable amount of their profit into new product, they should be OK.

      3. I doubt Impala will be replaced. Like the Caprice / Ford Panther, any replacement screams “fleet”. I think GM wants to sell a Traverse or a properly-segmented Buick instead. The Canyon / Colorado will probably be replaced with a new small truck, if only for CAFE reasons.

      Like you, I kinda wonder when the GM party’s going to end, when somebody’s going to screw it all up.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      Hell, AMC sales were up in 1983. Did that mean it was a healthy company?

      You’re not considering all of the facts. Or fleet sales.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I’d be interested to see what things are like from the inside at GM.  I recall reading with the debt discharged in bankruptcy, the closing of Saturn, Pontiac and Hummer, the dealer cull, and the union concessions GM is looking at saving several thousand dollars per car in overhead.
     
    I could imagine it quite liberating for GM engineers and designers to now have a couple thousand extra dollars per car  to lavish on higher quality finishes and more and better features.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      @jmo –

      Interesting, I have been mulling over the same question over the past several days whilst the GM IPO saga unfolds.

      I believe the answer will illustrate whether or not the culture inside the RenCen has changed for the better. Does GM continue building their cars as they have in the past? Or do they suck it up and spend some of the immediate profits on improving the materiel and engineering in the cars? Does GM take the short term view of the stock markets, who only care about the stock price and next quarterly report, or does GM look longer term, as in five years of drastically improved quality and reliability, leading to increased prices for used GM cars which has an elevating effect on new car pricing?

  • avatar
    ajla

    The profit on every SRX sale has got to be downright delightful.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    What was the point of keeping GMC and Buick?  I forgot.  I know their sales are up, but they are still selling next to nothing.  Most of those sales would go to Chevy anyway.  Sorry, I mean Chevrolet.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      GMC makes a ridiculously good profit margin on a Chevy truck.

      Buick sells very well in China, OK in Europe, with great US potential (which is actually coming along).

      Pushing those sales downmarket is Ford thinking, and ultimately drives less overall profit.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      Buick is the “it” brand in China.
       
      GMC is profitable, and was even as GM circled the drain.  Pontiac may have sold a lot more volume but GM didn’t make a penny on any of those cars sold.
       
      If GM had sold Buick the Chinese would have surely have bought it, and GM would have a huge operational disadvantage in the largest car economy in the world.  The United States is now in China’s rearview mirror, and will likely be there forever.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      @Holden: Agreed, tho I think you should clarify – GM probably lost money on every Pontiac sold, whereas they probably made money on ever GMC sold.

  • avatar
    JMII

    The reason for the uptick: no more new Saturns, Pontiacs or Hummers to sell. Those buyers simply switched brands but stayed inside the GM portfolio. Now imagine what would happen if GM got really smart and rolled GMC into Chevy and Buick into Caddy so they just had two divisions. Toyota/Lexus, Honda/Acura and Nissan/Infinity have proven that system is an excellent way to sell different versions of the same platform. Heck even Ford has Lincoln and is phasing out Mercury so they get it.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      multi-brand VAG easily outperforms Honda/Acura, Toyota/Lexus, Nissan/Infiniti and Ford/Lincoln. And let’s look at most of those second brands: Acura, Infiniti, and Lincoln aren’t exactly setting the world on fire. Only Lexus does well.

      Multi-brand GM is also outperforming the others. If GM can make the multi-brand strategy work, then why shouldn’t they do so?

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      I had seen something linked about 6 months ago that only 38% of Pontiac owners stayed in the GM fold.  I know it was just listed on TTAC that 42% of Buick customers today are outside of the GM fold.  Seriously that has to be about 99% higher than what it was five years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I would be one of those former Pontiac buyers. I don’t know where I will get my next car. I’ve had Chevys in the past and liked them, just not as much as our Pontiacs. I realize it makes no sense to some of you out there, but that’s the way I feel. Buicks are nice, but I don’t see myself as a Buick person.
       
      Lately, Dodges have caught my attention, because they seem to be the logical equivalent to Pontiac. I’ve also had Mopars in the past, and liked them. If the Fiat refresh of their lineup is something palatable to my North American tastes, I may shop there next time. OTOH, if Chevy spits out some nice SS variants of their cars, I may shop there. Hard to say right now.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Diversity of product offering catapaulted GM ahead of Ford 80 years ago and they never looked back until Toyota caught them. btw- I have read that Toyota has a number of different channels in Japan- maybe 6? They see advantage in diversity, too.

      We will see a lot of new product in the next months and years. Lutz job was not just to develop vehicles but to develop the product development organization to assure future releases are not as personality dependent. Time will tell how well it worked, but current new model performance is simply outstanding while commanding much higher transaction prices. 

      RE:Chevrolet- It is now the 4th largest brand in the world after Toyota, Ford, & VW. It is an especially good sign as the brand is a new comer to Europe and many other markets.

      GM is solidly profitable at todays still depressed volumes. The business is incredibly volume sensitive and continuing modest market recovery will generate great profits with new structural cost levels. 

  • avatar
    Jeffer

    A Canadian commercial for the new Chevrolet Cruze, claims that it is the “fastest growing nameplate in 61 countries” I assumed this referred to the Cruze, which I know is a “world car”, but could it refer to the Chevrolet brand, as a whole? I thought outside of N.America and China, the Chevy brand was somewhat of an also-ran. 

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      I believe that Chevrolet’s growth outside of North America is purely based on Asian derived platforms – which kind of presents a brand management problem for GM even in the US.
       
      Questions for GM – What is a Chevy?  What should a Chevrolet be in the 21st Century?

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      Dude.  Holden in Australia for starters is anything but an, “also ran.”

    • 0 avatar
      musiccitymafia

      … the population of Australia is estimated to be (whopping) 22,513,213 as of 5 November 2010 …. 
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Australia

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      And Holden’s main business is export to other parts of the world as rebranded vehicles.  Seriously – a 20 second Wikipedia search would come up with the history of Holden and financials.  It just makes you look bias when you’re completely uninformed and trot out a near meaningless statistic of 22 million people in Australia.  Last I checked the 37 million Canadians huddled up on the US border for warmth build A LOT of cars.  But I guess that impact is meaningless to North America and the global economy.  There’s only 37 million of them.  Pfft!

    • 0 avatar
      Jeffer

      Holden SSVE, I wasn’t talking about the Holden brand, I was talking about “chevrolet” and “cruze”. A Holden variant is irrelevent to my comment.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    Yes, it’s remarkable what the disintegration of Chrysler is doing for sales at GM.

    I haven’t seen anything so surprising since, Oh, business shot upward at Goldman Sachs after the GS fraternity currently resident in Washington decided Lehman Bros. and Bear Sterns were not too big to fail.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    I can’t help but notice that halve of GM’s volume sellers in North America are heavily trucks and utility vehicles.  I sure hope that there will be a HHR and Impala replacement coming on line soon.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    but the new hotness is still stuck next to some old-and-bustedness
     
    Kudos for channeling Will Smith in Men in Black.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Just don’t blame the Baby Boomers.
    The repetitive Boomer bashing so commonly seen across the depth and width and sundry other dimensions of the Web (but not hereabouts) is onerous, leading to disgruntlement within a horde of the herd of the Old Coot demographic.


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