By on January 4, 2011


On the surface, GM had a fairly passable 2010, as the newly-public automaker posted a 21.3% volume increase for its four core brands. In contrast to Toyota’s humbly grateful tone, GM’s VP of US Sales Don Johnson sounded a distinctly triumphal note, arguing

Our sales this year reflect the impact of GM’s new business model. The consistency of results that we achieved demonstrates the focus on our brands, dealers and customers, and how we compete aggressively for every sale, every day.

And on a superficial level, the argument certainly seems to ring true, as Buick (+51.9%), Cadillac (+34.7%), and GMC (+31.7%) were the three most-improved brands in the business last year in terms of volume. GM also delivered more vehicles than any other automaker last year, with 2,215,227 vehicles sold. Great success, end of story… right?

Wrong.

As long as the story stays on the three non-Chevy brands, the story stays happy. Buick enjoyed strong improvement in retail market share, rising .3% to match Acura at 1.4%. That seems in line with what should be reasonably expected for an entry-luxe brand, though it may be a bit disappointing when you consider the brand-new Regal is barely outselling the ancient Lucerne. Also, 52% growth isn’t quite as satisfying when you realize that, at 53,083 units, Buick’s volume improvement is a fraction of what one hot new sedan can achieve on its own (witness the Sonata’s 76,595-unit growth last year). Still, Buick has reclaimed more credibility on the market than would have seemed possible just last year (when Buick fell by 25%).

GMC’s 28.9% growth brought GM’s truck brand back over 300k units last year, en route to a .4% improvement in retail market share and 4% of the retail market. Which creates an interesting contrast: even though GMC grew slower (in terms of percentages) than the other non-Chevy brands, its retail market share was the best and the fastest-growing of the bunch. Of course trucks did better than cars last year, but that still doesn’t bode well for GM’s (magnesium-framed) future… and it hints at the lurking problem underlying GM’s entire 2010 performance (patience… we’re getting there).

Underlying Cadillac’s 34.7% volume growth was the most modest retail market share improvement of the non-Chevy brands, a bump of .2% to 1.3%. With Lexus, Mercedes and BMW battling for the luxury volume crown, Cadillac is but a bystander, with most of its 37,833-unit improvement coming from a 30k-and-change bump in SRX volume. But at 45,656 units, CTS is still competing with BMW’s MINI Cooper (45,644) rather than BMW’s 3-Series, which sold over twice the CTS’s volume. The Escalade variations added only about 2k units to the brand, while DTS and STS combined for a small drop in volume. With a full compliment of CTS bodystyles (sedan, coupe, wagon), GM is out of ways to goose its main model’s sales, which means both it and the SRX’s strong performance must continue unabated for Cadillac to grow. The Standard Of The World is now essentially a two-car brand.

But the real trouble for GM involves its most crucial brand: Chevrolet. Chevy’s growth was slowest among GM brands in terms of percentages, as the bowtie boys boosted volume 16.9% to 1,565,632 units. But, as you might have guessed by now, the problem has nothing to do with volume… it has to do with the extent to which that volume actually reflects market preferences. Although Chevrolet’s volume increased by more than 200k units last year, GM’s volume brand gave up a whopping .5 percent of its retail market share, the third-largest such slide in the industry (after Toyota’s .9% drop and Chrysler’s .7% dip). A year ago, Chevy attracted 11.6% of retail buyers, .1% behind Honda and .3% behind Ford… this year, Chevy dropped to 11.1%, as Honda climbed to 11.5% and Ford soared to 13.2%. Can you say “ouch”?

Play with these numbers a little, and you have no choice but conclude that Chevy is a brand in some real trouble. Through November, Chevy sold over 35% of its production to fleets… that’s 503,743 fleet sale units, a 66.9% increase over 2009. With GM’s overall fleet mix at 25.6%, it seems that 85.9 percent of GM’s fleet sales are from the Chevy brand. According to our sources, certain Chevy models (we’d tell you if we knew which) finished the year with over 50 percent of their sales going to fleets. And yes, fleet sales were up 27.5% over the course of the year, but Chevy single-handedly accounted for half that growth. The bowtie brand sold about 26 percent of all fleet vehicles last year, and worst of all, it accounted for 26.7% of sales to rental fleets, the worst kind of fleet sales.

Meanwhile, Chevy’s retail sales climbed a measly 1.2% through November of last year. And, as a whole, GM’s retail market share fell a full 1.8%, from 18.6% to 16.8%. That’s more retail consumers leaving The General than recall-scandal-battered Toyota, which lost only 1.2% of the retail market last year. Does that scream “consumer acceptance” or “rebirth” to anyone? Anyone at all? Bueller?

With the media firmly focused on sales percentages, particularly the gaudy increases at Buick, GMC and Cadillac, nobody seems to be noticing as Chevy systematically kills the goose that lays the golden eggs. And no wonder: overall GM’s fleet sales were an inconspicuous 25.6%, a number that’s in line with the industry average of 27.5%. But Chevrolet’s volume is the glue that keeps GM’s North American operations together, and its brand integrity will be systematically wiped out if GM bosses don’t recognize that relying on fleet-based growth is not a sustainable model for the future.

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85 Comments on “Year-End Sales Report: General Motors...”


  • avatar

    “According to our sources, certain Chevy models (we’d tell you if we knew which) finished the year with over 50 percent of their sales going to fleets.”
    Aveo
    Cobalt (and likely Cruze)
    Malibu
    Impala

    • 0 avatar
      TimCrothers

      The corect answers are:
      Aveo
      Cobalt
      Impala
      HHR
      Express
      Colorado
      Silverado HD
      The Malibu and Cruze sell mostly retail, and the Impala is borderline 50%ish fleet.
       

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right, Tim. I was giving GM more credit than it deserves by listing so few models.

      I maintain both the Malibu and Cruze are dangerously close to that magical 50% mark for fleet specials. I’ve yet to see a Cruze that didn’t have a rental tag on it.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      @Rob I don’t know where those rental Malibus are going because since 2008 I’ve only rented one; Avis tells me over and over again they don’t have any.  My last foray at Hertz I did see one LTZ Malibu on the lot.

      If there is hard data I’m not arguing with the hard data, but my focus group of one says, there aren’t many Malibus on the rental lots.

      Now Cobalts on the other hand…

  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    That is some pretty bizarre anti-GM spin TTAC is putting on things.

    High-margin brands like Buick, GMC, and Caddy gaining at the expense of low-margin Chevy is a bad thing for GM? Really?

    I guess FoMoCo is going to be TTAC’s darling, because they killed Mercury, and Lincoln is starting to circle the drain, but look at those Ford-badged sales grow!

    If GM could gain a full point of market share for each of their higher-end brands, and every single one of those sales cannibalized a Chevy sale, GM would be rolling in the money!

    • 0 avatar

      Dude, do the math. Buick, GMC and Caddy’s incremental improvement was 166,118… Chevy’s fleet sales were 503,743. Something tells me those margins don’t even out.
      Could it be worse? Absolutely. Is GM the roaring success the Press Secretary and others want you to believe it is? Most definitely not.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Are you going to hold Ford and Chrysler to the same standards? Or are you going to bias your year-end analysis with similarly selective reporting of facts?

      You’re comparing a +166k slice against a 500k apple. How about you be a bit more honest and compare gains vs gains, or totals vs totals.

      I get that you don’t like GM. But holy smoke, you went to a lot of trouble to create bad news where there isn’t any.

    • 0 avatar
      ComfortablyNumb

      “High-margin brands like Buick, GMC, and Caddy gaining at the expense of low-margin Chevy”
      You can’t draw the conclusion that those brands’ sales gains are a result of up-selling Chevy customers.  It’s either an erroneous conclusion on your part, or you’re trying your hand at GM-style data spinning.  In that case, well done.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      The fact of the matter is that Buick, GMC, and Caddy gained 166k sales. Chevy also gained retail sales, but not as much.

      Given that Buick, GMC, and Caddy all outpaced the market, whereas Chevy trailed the market, all else being equal, it’s reasonable to conclude that those are upsales.

      Or they’re captures from other OEMs.

      Don’t really care how you want to spin it, but the fact is that GM is doing just fine.

    • 0 avatar
      musiccitymafia

      Or sales to existing customers (Buick, GMC, Caddy retirees??) who’ve been sitting out until things “appeared” to settle down a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      ComfortablyNumb

      Chevy isn’t the bait in a bait-and-switch operation to sell Caddys, it’s a core brand.  Their retail sales weren’t good, and fleet dependency is not sustainable business.  It’s a problem.  I agree that GM is doing well, but Chevy needs some work.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you going to hold Ford and Chrysler to the same standards?
      Are you going to read the Chrysler sales report that’s been up for hours? Chrysler lost .6% retail market share… it only sold around 700k units to retail consumers last year. Toyota lost 1.2%. GM lost 1.8% Sometimes the facts are biased…

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      @Ed: Great!

      Did Lexus or Lincoln/Mercury gain 70k units like the Hyundai Sonata, much less +166k units like GMC/Buick/Caddy?

      Are you beating on Lexus & Lincoln for being 2-model shops?

      What about Ford’s fleet sales? With GM’s overall reduction in fleet, I think Ford’s pushing proportionally more fleet than GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      What about Ford’s fleet sales? With GM’s overall reduction in fleet, I think Ford’s pushing proportionally more fleet than GM.
      Here ya go SVX:
      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/chrysler-breaks-fleet-sales-promise/#comments
      http://www.leftlanenews.com/detroit-continues-to-rely-heavily-on-fleet-sales.html
      http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100809/RETAIL01/308099960/1401#ixzz0w7FZw45f
       
      The real TRUTH…
       

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      @Ed: Toyota Motor *shrank* in 2010. GM grew overall by 7%, mostly in their high-margin lines, and your conclusion is that GM somehow did *worse* than Toyota.

      The mind boggles.

  • avatar
    Loser

    IMHO GM and Chevy will be just fine. Not too sure about Buick though.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Could it be worse? Absolutely. Is GM the roaring success the Press Secretary and others want you to believe it is? Most definitely not.”

    Tell me how that’s different than any other company in the US that’s publicly traded. I’ll bet things are a whole lot different in the same respect over at GE for instance…LOL
    I

  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    OK, let’s look at numbers:

    Buick v Acura: Buick sold 155.4k, Acura sold 133.6k – Buick sold 16% more cars than Acura. 16% isn’t really a “match” – it’s a solid trouncing, proportionally larger than the 10% margin than Ford outsold Toyota.

    +53.1k total Buicks vs +76.6k Sonatas probably drove more profit for GM than Hyundai. Did Porsche do badly because they gained less than 6k additional sales? Still, congrats on digging that nugget out – I guess Kia only gaining ~56k sales is similar failure on their part, having started with a far larger base and being able to sell at a lower price & profit point.

    GMC’s 28.9% growth easily outpaced the market, even if you fold HUMMER in with them. It’s good.

    Caddy gained nearly 40k units in the luxury segment – that’s a bigger gain than Mercury (+1k), Lincoln (+3k), Lexus (+14k) , Audi (+19k), Infiniti (+22k) or Acura (+30k). Any of Caddy’s comptitors would have killed to have those same sales gains.

    Caddy being a 2-model shop beats 1-model Lincoln (Town Car), Acura (MDX) and Infiniti (G35), while matching Lexus (RX & ES). Presumably, the coming STS/DTS replacement will help Caddy going forward in the same way that the new SRX did – one shudders to think Caddy would do worse…

    As noted above, GM is pushing a multi-brand strategy which involves building Buick, GMC, and Caddy – giving up share of base Chevy isn’t a problem as long as GM overall gains share. GM isn’t Ford, Honda, or Toyota – they aren’t trying to have a single brand dominate things. GM is returning to doing what GM does best – to differentiate brands for different customers, at different price points.

    With respect to fleet sales, GM selling mostly Chevies to the fleets seems to make perfect sense. It’s not like they’re forced to sell Sebrings.

    GM is selling less fleet than average. That’s good. But the notion that GM is depending on fleet sales for growth seems patently false. GM gained 166k Buick, Caddy & GMC sales over last year. Considering the profits from those non-fleet sales, it’s safe to say that GM’s strategy of growing high-margin brands is working.

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      At the end of the day, Buick and Cadillac will be judged by their ability to compete with the leaders: Lexus, MB and BMW.  By those standards, sales volume is two-thirds of where it  needs to be.  And transaction prices are too low. Why?

      Well, the STS, DTS and Lucerne are ancient and wrong wheel drive, the SRX is overweight, the Regal is underpowered, and the LaCrosse is a yawn.  

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      “GM is returning to doing what GM does best – to differentiate brands for different customers, at different price points.”
       
      Really?  If that’s what they do best, the future isn’t looking too bright.  Once the Verano debuts next year, Buick will have three sedans with a base prices ranging from ~$21-27,000.  Meanwhile, Chevy will have three sedans with base prices from ~$17-$25,000.  So much for different price points.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      SherbornSean,

      The STS is actually rear wheel drive, but it has never been close to competitive in its segment and very few people in the market seem to know it exists. It is impressive that Cadillac manages to sell any cars at all when you look at their products. GM must know something about marketing, but it isn’t obvious when you consider invisible products like the STS.

    • 0 avatar
      441Zuke

      “Buick v Acura: Buick sold 155.4k, Acura sold 133.6k – Buick sold 16% more cars than Acura. 16% isn’t really a “match” ” I am willing to bet acura had a higher transaction price and made money on each purchase. to some honda engineering means something.
      Hyundai might be price dumping but i am a staunchly a nationalist but you can’t tell me a either the Fusion nor the Malibu is a better car / value
      “Caddy gained nearly 40k units in the luxury segment – that’s a bigger gain than Mercury (+1k), Lincoln (+3k), Lexus (+14k) , Audi (+19k), Infiniti (+22k) or Acura (+30k). Any of Caddy’s comptitors would have killed to have those same sales gains” believe me what you will none of those last 3 have any worry about a caddy exceot the CTS to some extent.
      My own two cents : buick is a waste of marketing resources and engineering money as is GMC (if the Chevy trucks weren’t so damn ugly) GM needs to focus on it’s core brands Chevy and Cadillac. build a decent c class(cobalt) and a good D either Malibu or Impala.  get you ass out of the one real hybrid game. build a two mode equinox and a two mode malibu and follow that up with a cobolt or cruz two mode hybrid

    • 0 avatar

      “+53.1k total Buicks vs +76.6k Sonatas probably drove more profit for GM than Hyundai.”

      Doubtful. GM is still importing those Regals in from Germany, which means import fees and duties. Hyundai builds the Sonata in the good ol’ US of A (with — God love ‘em — non-UAW workers!)

      Also, I’d imagine Buick has to give a bit more during negotiations on the horridly unpopular Regal. Hyundai STILL has no issues whatsover selling every Sonata it can build.

    • 0 avatar
      CamaroKid

      Some simple math… a simple fact… zero spin…

      In 2009 GM, in the middle of one of the worst Bankruptcies in the history of the world… GM had 19.9% Market share.

      In 2010, over a year later GM LOST market share and is down to 19.1%…

      Yes GM grew at 7% for last year… Given that the whole market grew by 11%  That is backwards growth of 5%.     The time to get all giddy about GM’s growth numbers is when the beat the industry average.   And the last time they did that on an annual basis was when?  1980?

      For the record large car makers who BEAT the industry growth rate…, Chrysler did, Ford did, Hyundai did, Nissan did, Volkswagen did… GM did not.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      @Sean: Given that GM splits their BMW / Lexus / Benz fighters in two, with 300k combined volume, they’re *already* beating the competition by roughly 50%.

      That said, over the next couple years, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to Buick reach 200k or 225k units, given the broader range of legitimately competitive models they now have. Add an full-size Invicta / Park Avenue luxury sedan, a good minivan, and a RX-fighting CUV, and a Lexus-beating 250k is well within reach.

      Caddy has a tougher row to hoe, needing a proper 7L-beating flagship sedan and a dedicated sports car, along with a 1/3-fighting entry model. These are hard cars to develop, but could be done in parallel with the Invicta and C7. 200k should be possible.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      @Camaro: I like how you need to be selective. Of the top 3 OEMs, only Ford outgrew the market, while Toyota shrank (nice omission there).

      Had GM pumped fleet like they used to, they could have grown just as fast as the rest of the market. Would that extra low-margin volume been a good thing for the company, or would it have been a return to the very practices that got them in trouble in the first place?

      The clear fact that GM is moving away from low-margin sales (fleet & Chevy), despite the reduced volume and market share shows a level of discipline that historically has not been present at GM.

      Whether it ultimately works will take time to tell, but it’s a reasonable strategy, and GM is following it.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      So GM splits its BMW/Mercedes/Lexus fighters into “two” – presumably meaning Cadillac and Buick? Sorry, but there is no way that Buick is being cross-shopped with BMW, Mercedes and Lexus. It doesn’t have nearly the prestige of those brands. Cadillac is barely competitive with those brands – it competes with Acura at best.

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      To say that GM is already beating BMW, Lexus and M-B by combining Buick and Caddy sales really is pushing it.  And here’s why:

      1. You are only looking at US sales, whereas GM’s competitors have strong sales globally.  Have you seen the sales figures for Caddilac in Europe? 

      2. The key to developing and maintaining a luxury brand is that you don’t throw $5K on the hood to move the metal.  GM still doesn’t get this, and until they start building vehicles people truly want, they can never succeed.

      3. The most critical difference between GM and competitors is that they are profitable.  Not just for a quarter or two, and maybe a full year, but consistently profitable, throwing off billions of dollars 4 years out of 5. 

    • 0 avatar
      CamaroKid

      The clear fact that GM is moving away from low-margin sales (fleet & Chevy), despite the reduced volume and market share shows a level of discipline that historically has not been present at GM.

      Whats clear is that you have no idea what you are talking about… The cars that you claim that GM is walking away from because they are low-margin are actaully the ones that are PURE PROFIT…  Cars like the Impala, the DTS and the Cobalt ride on platforms that were fully depreciated years, and in some cases decades, ago. 

      This perceived shift to more profitable cars is pure spin…  Whats next are you going to try and tell everyone that GM made a ton on Camaros since many sold at MSRP and above last year.  It takes GM YEARS to make money on a new platform.  The Regal has not made a penny yet, nor has the SRX, nor has the Cruze.  It is simple math, to make money with cars you need to sell LOTS OF THEM…

      Do you have any idea how the car industry works?

      And no omission on Toyota, they lost real market share too…  Easy to understand why since they were shut down for part of the year, because their cars were busy killing their drivers.  You would think with such a BAD year for Toyota, GM could have picked up at least some market share… But here we are another year later and almost another percent lost of market share.

  • avatar
    holydonut

    I bet most of TTAC’s writers have some draft entries written that go along the lines of “GM’s latest good news is full of crap and here’s why.”  All they do is edit out some placeholder phrases with actual words when the time is right.  It’s like blogsphere-mad-libs.
     
    We knew that GM was sitting on “good news to beat expectations.”  Just wait until their 2010 earnings report is issued – it’s going to be full of rosy good news that GM has been spell-checking for the last 6 months.
     
    So… go buy their stock, or better yet go get some call-options.  When this good news hits, it’ll be one of the quickest returns you can make on a high-volume company.  This isn’t a bet on a pharma company getting FDA approval.  It’s betting on GM lying about how great their company is doing.
     
    Once the stock pumps-up, sell the stuff.  Use your GM proceeds to buy a Porsche… everybody loves irony.  Unfortunately, bashing GM loses a bit of it’s appeal when you make some money off of them.  But don’t forget there’s always Chrysler to whip around.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      The way this article was written, TTAC had to do a bit of hunting. The Sonata factoid was a particularly good find.

      I don’t know why they don’t just change the name of the blog to “The Bias Against GM”.

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      I think the point of the Sonata factoid was to illustrate that if GM were capable of building a best-in-class midsize car, that significant market share gains are possible.

      But if you truly disagree, then by all means go out and buy yourself a Regal.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the point of the Sonata factoid was to illustrate that if GM were capable of building a best-in-class midsize car, that significant market share gains are possible.
      Bingo.
      I bet most of TTAC’s writers have some draft entries written that go along the lines of “GM’s latest good news is full of crap and here’s why.”  All they do is edit out some placeholder phrases with actual words when the time is right.  It’s like blogsphere-mad-libs.
      Busted!

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      How is GM gaining sales not gaining share where it counts?

  • avatar
    Silent Ricochet

    Oh look. Another Anti-GM article… Getting a little tired of these. GM is doing excellent right now, as proven by SVX. All I see on this site is anti-GM articles and Pro-Panther and Ford articles. It’s ridiculous..

    • 0 avatar
      ComfortablyNumb

      Say what you will about TTAC’s biases, but you can’t argue the numbers.  Ed just handed you the data minus the sunshine and frolicking puppies, just as he does for every maker’s sales numbers.  The non-Chevy brands ARE doing well.  Chevy IS dependent on fleet sales, which ISN’T a good model for growth.  What has he said that’s wrong?

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I’m with ComfortablyNumb.  Although perhaps this is GMs new secret strategy?  Chevy for fleets and what we would really like to sell you is… anything else, a Buick, a Cadillac, or a GMC.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      +1 to ComfortablyNumb.  Edward showed you the numbers and drew two logical conclusions:
       
      1. ONE Hyundai model (Sonata) sold more than Buick as a brand
      2. Chevrolet’s lifeline is fleet sales.  Sure, GM can amortize shared components across those fleet sales, but it’s not a healthy model for growth. If you want to build and maintain a successful brand you must have something that people want – not that they settle for.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      @hreardon:

      In 2010 Hyundai sold 196.6k Sonatas, 76.6k more than last year.

      That’s a larger year-over-year gain than *ANY* luxury / entry-luxury brand gained (only GMC is close, gaining +75k). For reference, BMW & Benz gained only +25k and +35k, respectively, while tiny Audi gained <20k units. By this measure, clearly, all of the Germans are underperforming.

      It's also a larger full-year total volume than *ANY* luxury / entry-luxury sub-brand except Lexus (230k) & GMC (300k). Heck, it's larger then Lincoln & Mercury *combined* (178k total).

      So the question is *why* the Sonata? And the answer is because TTAC is using an all-new high-volume bread-and-butter Camcord-equivalent to compare against entry-lux. Apples and oranges.

      If TTAC wanted to compare a Buick-equivalent Hyundai, I think they'd have to use the Genesis, which only moved 22k (including all Equus sales).

      Or perhaps compare a Buick-equivalent brand. Lexus only gained 6% / +15k units. Lincoln-Mercury were even worse. Only Acura (+26% / +30k) did close to Buick.

      If TTAC wants to use the Sonata as an example of how Buick is doing poorly, then obviously, the entire rest of the market is doing horribly. With the relatively broad recovery, that clearly isn't the case.

      Yes, Hyundai had a stellar year (brand up a whopping 23+%) with a great car replacing a totally beige car. But don't pretend that this is anywhere typical. Or that Hyundai (or anyone else) can easily repeat this growth to sell 270k (+76k) Sonatas next year.

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      Exactly how is Buick a more “prestigious” brand than Hyundai?  Does Buick offer RWD cars in the US?  Does Buick make any model that’s more powerful AND more fuel efficient than the Sonata?  What’s wrong with comparing Buick to Hyundai?   Buick is certainly not in the same league as Lexus/BMW/Mercedes.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    It drives me nuts every time I hear how GM’s “Core Brand” sales are up so much.
     
    Sales are up for GM, and for much of the industry.  But this “GM Core” business is whitewashing.  Total GM sales are up about 7% over last year, versus 21% for the remaining brands.  I’d be inclined to go with the larger number, but I doubt anybody walked away from General Motors because they can’t buy a Pontiac anymore.  Individual GM brands (save maybe Cadillac) lost their meaning decades ago.  You didn’t buy a Pontiac or an Oldsmobile…you bought a GM.  GM sold over 400k Pontiacs and Saturns last year, despite essentially killing both of them in the spring.  I’m positive Chevy and Buick absorbed all that volume this year.
     
    So fewer brands shouldn’t have reduced the overall volume, it should have increased the volume of remaining brands…so why bother with the “Core” thing?  Especially now that GM is publicly-traded, this just seems dishonest.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Are discounts given to fleet buyers counted as incentives?

  • avatar
    DearS

    The truth is self evident, I don’t consider the article to be batching, more like skepticism perhaps. I agree that sales at some of GMs brands look positive, still looking at the big picture is important like always. Buick has new cars, Cadillac has new cars, the market is on an up swing from a relatively humbling 2009, all these things point to more sales for 2010. Its now a new year. Chevy does seem to have issues with retail sales and brand equity. Time will tell, everyone has a right to come to their own conclusions. I feel the truth in this case is somewhere in the middle, but I like being open minded to everything and anything, as long as I have some clarity.

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    Your anti GM/bailout rants are starting to get really annoying. The first time or two it was cool…after all you are in the business of sharing your opinion with auto enthusiasts…. but now it most definitely is not cool! We are well aware of how you feel about GM, so move on man….before you completely alienate your loyal base.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      TTAC earned their base by predicting the bankruptcies before anyone else had the backbone to tell the truth about Detroit. I suspect TTAC is just as correct this time too.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    How sick is it that the President’s press secretary is promoting GM through Twitter?  Does anyone else not see what a slippery slope this is, and how unfair it is to other privately owned car manufacturers? I’m sure other car companies can expect a fair shake from the US Government.

    • 0 avatar
      PeteMoran

      Hmmm, even in the socialist paradise that is Australia, I thought that was a bit odd. Has it happened before? Maybe he’s going to GM (if departure rumours are to be believed).

  • avatar
    bufguy

    You’re anti GM bias is becoming quite tiring, especially in light of your incessant praise of Ford.
    If I read one more article about the “Panther” I’ll throw up. It was inferior to GM’s B body, even after coming out 2 years later in 1979.
    The new Taurus is a bloated failure, Mercury is dead and Lincoln can’t hold a candle to Cadillac.
    Mullaly mortgaged Ford to the hilt. It will eventually catch up with them.
    In the meantime GM will be fine.

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      Taurus sales were up 51% this year, beaten in the large car segment by only the fleet-heavy Charger and maybe the Maxima. I don’t see how that’s a failure. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not a success.

  • avatar

    Another TTAC “GM’s good news is really bad news” article. Drink!

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Domestic core brands will always have a high percentage of fleet sales due to fleet-centric models and truck sales.
     
    Yes, Chevy probably dumped a lot of Malibus, HHRs, and Impalas into rental fleets this year, which isn’t great, but a lot of the fleet sales were also likely Silverados for business use, which is fine.
     
    GM’s success in the higher profit lines is actually very good news for the company, and a solid strategy in today’s economic climate.  The wealthy in general didn’t take nearly as much of a hit as the middle and working class in the recent economic downturn, so they make an attractive demographic to make money from.  At the end of the day GM’s shareholders won’t care how many cars were sold as much as how much profit was made.  Letting the Chevy brand become devalued due to rampant fleet sales and out of control incentivizing is obviously not a good long term strategy, but I don’t think we are seeing that here.  GM does need to revamp several of the core Chevy models, and we will likely see that happen soon.
     
    For better or for worse GM has decided to take a very different approach to rebuilding the brand than Ford has.  While Ford has focused on getting the core models under the Ford brand in order, and is only now beginning to turn to Lincoln, GM had decided to work on the high profit but low volume niche brands first.  Now that GM is being publicly traded again we’ll see some good hard profit and/or loss numbers in the near future, so before we restart the GM death watch, let’s see if GM’s strategy might have actually worked.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Auto blog-dom is overly focused on fleet sales. Sometimes knowing a little something is about the same as knowing nothing.
    Yes, in a hyper competitive market, Chevrolet gave up a fraction of a percent of retail market share. That is indeed a bad thing, but it isn’t the end of the world, and it is THE ONLY BAD NEWS in an otherwise excellent sales turn around.
    We don’t know how much of Chevrolet’s fleet business was rental fleets and how much was the government and corporate markets. Maybe Chevy is taking a bigger share of the cop car market from Ford than it used to get. If so, that is a good thing.
    GM’s turnaround is still very much an unfinished story, but the progress this past year is, by any reasonable measure, much better than the vast majority of people predicted. If only GM hadn’t ham-handedly killed off so many Chevy dealer then we might not even be talking about that .5% retail market share slide.
     
     

  • avatar

    newly-pathetic. as I preached and preached for years, the problem at GM is they have no clue how to do retail automotive and the pompous, egotistical, isolated, insulated culture continues. the faces have changed but the attitude and aptitude is no different. over time market share will continue to decline as they refuse to listen and maintain the most ridiculous and idiotic iincentive structure and fail to realize there are different ways of merchandising besides distress.

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      Buickman makes a crucial point.  Both Ford and Chrysler have seen wrenching to-the-roots cultural changes in their respective companies.  From the outside, I have not seen much of this from GM.  Sure, a couple of top people are new, but what changes are occurring in the trenches?  The only big change I ever saw in product focus was due to Lutz, and he has been gone for awhile.

      Chrysler was big into fleets in 2010 because its product portfolio was WAY past its sell-by date.  Also, as the Crown Vic winds down, the Charger is becoming the darling of police departments everywhere.
      Chevrolet?  Much of its product has come out in the last 3 years.  But incentives are at or near the highest in the industry and fleet sales are way up.  Where is all the new product?  The Cruze is a nice car, but how will it hold out against the newer Focus and Civic?  Where is the updated Malibu?  It’s not the New Bu anymore.  Impala is the Chevrolet Panther – it has its charms, but it is not what they will be building upon for the future.  Is Chevrolet leading (even among domestics) in a single category?  Maybe in Suburbans and in white work vans.  With Lutz gone, I fear for the new-product vision that seems evident at Ford and Chrysler. 

    • 0 avatar
      rmwill

      Amen Buickman!

      I know first hand that the the smug arrogance of GM management contiues unabated.
      With a tools like Ackerson (Aka Nardelli-Lite) and Reuss (Son of the original GM killer, Lloyd Reuss)running the company, it will be a fairly quick descent the next time auto sales begin to drop again.  In the meantime, rising industry sales will feed the “GM is back” BS that is coming out of the tubes on the Detroit River. 

      The GM apologists here are the true spinmeisters.

  • avatar
    shaker

    An acquaintance just turned in his leased Impala for a (purchased) new Cruze 1LT – a nice little car (he says $18k after some incentives). Nice upscale interior, overall good looks, good gas mileage (though it did have steel wheels).
    I hope that the workers in Lordstown, OH put their hearts into these cars, as it will be telling of GM’s future… Now, on to the Impala!

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I know the 21% “core brands” number is the sexy number being trumpeted by GM and the Obama administration, but that 7% number to me is even more incredible. If you were to tell me last year that after an arguably overly swift and favorable bankruptcy, a seemingly unpopular government bailout and shedding three divisions GM would be UP in sales from last year, I would have asked what you were smoking.
    For all the “I will never buy a vehicle from a company that took my tax dollars!” noise you would think that GM would end up being a Government fleet only carmaker. That hasn’t happened.

  • avatar
    Bridge2farr

    The ani GM spin here is laughable

  • avatar
    gm-uawtool

    Interesting to read all the comments about whether Chevy is totally – or nearly – reliant on fleet sales.  I happen to have access to those numbers for December and it is far different than the picture painted here.  Chevy cars that went into fleet totalled less than 13,200. Total GM cars into fleet were less than 14,000.  And on the truck side, fleet sales are a good thing (I work at the van plant and fleet is our bread and butter) as very few wind up as daily rentals, the “bad” fleet sales if you will.  Keep flailing at that GM pinata with your blindfold on. 

  • avatar
    lw

    What’s relevant is the profit margin (or loss) on the sales.  They can sell one car a year for all I care, just make that unit damn profitable…

    Hopefully they can get their financial statements cleaned up soon so we can know what is going on.

    • 0 avatar
      CamaroKid

      If GM continues to lose market share like they have been since, well, since 30+ years…
      We might just get to see what it looks like for GM to sell just one car a year.

      The reality that the GM spin doctors want to ignore, is that it costs MONEY to run a car company… and you need to sell a certain number of cars just to break even… sell less then that number and it is 2004 all over again… You can’t lose market share year after year, decade after decade and not at some point… be back before Congress or a Federal BK judge.

      Also missed by the spin doctors… is that the “cool” “new” high end, “high margin” cars like the Regal, or the CTS coupe or the pending replacement for the STS/DTS haven’t made a PENNY yet and will likely not make enough money to cover the development and manufacturing costs for YEARS.. maybe even a decade…

      The cars that ACTAULLY make GM money… and lots of it, are NOT the huge margin cars…. they are the FULLY DEPRECIATED ones… Like the Impala, the DTS, the Cobalt, the Sierra, and the Lucerne… or in other words the ones being canceled.

  • avatar
    GarbageMotorsCo.

    Through November, Chevy sold over 35% of its production to fleets…

    No surprise now that Pontiac, Saturn and the Buick Lucerne are dead.

    Before then it was mostly the Impala and Rentabu that were Chevys fleet specials. The Equinox was a common sight on rental lots as well although retail is up so now it’s up to the Chevy Snuze to make up the lost inventory.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      Cruze is under 30 day inventory; GM can’t build them fast enough.  If the Malibu is on rental lots in huge number, I’m not seeing them.

      The Buick Lucerne is alive and well in 2011, check the Buick site.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    I don’t see any GM bias here, or Ford or Chrysler bias. Let the facts do the talking. Fact is, in my area, all the GM dealers are hurting.  Over 100 2011 CrewCab Silverados in stock at this one dealership, take your pick, and they’ll take off a flat $9000 from the MSRP.  Another facts is, as rumor has it, GM-China is already bigger than GM-North America.  I own both a 2003 F150 SuperCab and a 1988 Silverado ExtCab.  I don’t have any bias either because I just bought a 2011 Tundra 5.7 SR5 DoubleCab Longbed 2WD. My wife’s vehicle is a 2008 Jap-built Highlander 4WD Limited.  The fact is that these two vehicles were the best for the money, IMO.  No bias. Just preference about where I wish to spend my own money. Only time will tell if GM is making this resurgent comeback their fans are so fond of promoting.  I’m not optimistic.  I think the death of GM-North America has merely been postponed until GM-China can take over the world-wide reigns.  That day may come sooner than you think.

  • avatar
    BeaverFood

    If sales were down on the Silverado 1500, I can understand why. Before getting my 2010 Tundra (that’s a Toyota boys and girls) I had 5 total electrical failures. Twice, it had to be towed for an overnight stay at the dealer, and I had to go though the rental car hassle across town. After the 5th failure, I got rid of it and will never buy another GM product.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    In comparison with this article and the one about Toyota, the Toyota one pretty much blames the recalls for Toyota’s problems.  This one just says there are problems at GM and doesn’t mention the bailout as a possible reason for these problems.
     
    Given the history of the bailouts, I would say GM is doing pretty well.  They didn’t gain share, no.  They did increase sales and are making a profit, that is most important.  GM does need better product and needs to be more competitive in many segments.

    • 0 avatar
      CamaroKid

      Probably because GM was losing market share before, during, and after the bailout.  To any outsider, the market share problem seems to be independent of the bail out.

      Take a look, GM lost market share in a boom economies, the lost market share in bust economies, they lost market share while they made money and the lost market share while they lost money.  They lost market share while Democrats controlled Congress and they lost market share while Republicans controlled Congress…  They lost market share while they sold crap cars and they lost market share while they sold significantly better cars.

      The difference here is that everyone knows what is causing Toyota’s run of back luck… GM on the other hand, people have been considering and pondering for 30 years on what to do to fix the problem… and we still can’t even agree on what the problem is.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Overall this is pretty darn ugly.

    If Ford can sell the Crown Vic at 95% fleet in my book GM is fine selling the Impala to police forces, taxi services and government agencies at 54% fleet (honestly I can’t believe it was that low).  When ever the Impala marches out I ask the question,”so GM should then say, forget it, and Ford/Chrsyler you can have those 125K units we sell to taxi services, police, and government agencies – we don’t want the business,” and then NO ONE will go, “see, GM was dumb to get rid of the Impala, they lost all those sales to Ford.  Yay, Ford!

    The same goes for Ford and GM both for their 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton, and 1 ton truck business, and fullsize panel van business.  Should they just say, “ah forget it,” and walk away.

    Now after cherry picking these four specific vehicles (Silverado, Silverado HD, Van, Impala) the rest isn’t good, the loss of retail sales is bad; very, very bad long term.  GM has to turn this around or there won’t be a GM at some point in time…

  • avatar
    Thunda407

    Just a couple of things:

    1.  GM stopped building cars in 1976.  They still have the same niche available to them if they would elect to fill it – people like yours truly who don’t care about gas mileage and would like a big, no-frills, V-8 rear-drive car, hopefully updated with an independent rear suspension, that sells for around $30K.  The Caprice/Impala SS/Roadmaster were selling well before GM killed them to free up production for trucks.  CAFE fines would add about $1200 to the price of each car, but that’s fine by me.

    2.  As it is, GM has unfunded pension liabilities of over $100bn and a market cap somewhere north of $60bn.  They’re not going to make it – unless they go through a proper Chapter 11, by the numbers, and give the UAW the same haircut their bondholders took.  Until they do this, I’m not buying another GM (or Chrysler) product.
    No money for the looters.  Full stop.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    EN,
    Where is the data coming from on the numbers for GM?  I don’t see the sources named which is why I am asking.
     
    According to GM’s press release, GM will gain total market share and retail market share.
    http://media.gm.com/content/media/us/en/news/news_detail.brand_gm.html/content/Pages/news/us/en/2011/Jan/0104_gmsales
    Not to call GM a liar, or TTAC a liar, I am just curious as to how the numbers could be this off.

    • 0 avatar

      GM’s presser says its four-brand retail sales rose 16% in 2010, but it doesn’t reveal retail market share. I appreciate the effort to drive a wedge into TTAC’s cozy relationship with GM, but the numbers aren’t necessarily “off.” If, on the other hand they are “off,” we of course welcome GM to provide the evidence that proves it.
      Meanwhile, revealing my source won’t cast any light on the situation, so don’t bother asking. I wouldn’t have published the data if it didn’t come from a source that knows what it’s talking about.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    IMHO, the important numbers are;
     
    1) The market share slide as a pattern, especially after there was supposed to be good-will for the new GM company.
     
    2) Customer retention/churn – no sign of improvement I think it’s fair to argue.
     
    3) Profitability on non-truck offerings. When Truckmaggendon 2.0 strikes late this year or early 2012, the test of the restructure will be whether or not money is made on the non-truck offerings. Can GM (or Ford for that matter) keep things going without the fat that is truck-stoopid USA?
     
    From a technical point-of-view; I’d like to see GM leverage the Volt quickly into other products, but “green” buyers, despise GM. The Volt and it’s technology should be spun off to be a separate company with anti-petro/anti-V8/anti-truck thinkers running the show.
     
    You can’t use the immensely useful; ‘you’re a wanker if you drive a truck’ marketing strategy while selling nearly the most trucks of any company.

  • avatar
    Mike Kelley

    What about this?  http://www.theneweditor.com/index.php?/archives/12346-GM-Continues-To-Stuff-Dealers-With-Its-Cars.html
    And this:  http://www.zerohedge.com/article/gm-continues-stuff-dealers-its-cars

  • avatar
    Steven02

    EN,
    Not trying to drive a wedge, only looking for accurate and fair reporting.  Their press release also says that they did gain in retail share as well.
     
    “GM’s four brands sold 118,435 more vehicles this year than the company did with eight brands in 2009, and will gain total and retail market share for the year.”

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      “GM’s four brands sold 118,435 more vehicles this year than the company did with eight brands in 2009, and will gain total and retail market share for the year.”

      That’s the “four core brands” again.  Not GM as a whole.  GM as a whole LOST retail market share.  The cleverly constructed press release conveniently ignored the death (and sale) of Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer and Saab.

      GM as a whole gained 7% in 2010. But the industry-wide gain was 11%. No amount of GM spin can cover up the market share loss.

  • avatar
    NewLookFan

    I’m just a consumer, but I think that my feelings about GM parallel that of many.  I think GM lost market relevance years ago, and probably will never get it back.

    Yes, the full size trucks are nice, and should have significant fleet sales so people like me can RENT one when we NEED it, and drive something more appropriate the rest of the time.

    With his “geek” remark about the Prius, I think Mr. Ackerson has insulted the very customer base he is seeking to win Volt sales.  And to imply that people moved on the the Civic and Corolla because the Cavalier and Cobalt lacked “gizmos” is incredibly myopic (hint: it’s about reliability!).  Further, as gas prices slowly rise, we hear that the Colorado/Canyon will probably be discontinued (it couldn’t have anything to do with the quirkiest looks since the Datsun B-210, could it?).

    Sorry, but I can’t help but look to the loss of the bus and locomotive divisions to predict GM’s  future.   

  • avatar
    BlackDynamiteOnline

    Chevy passed by Honda?

    Honda doesn’t even sell trucks!
    DAMN!
    BD


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