What Market Slowdown? GM Full-Size SUV Sales Jumped 59 Percent In October

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
what market slowdown gm full size suv sales jumped 59 percent in october

America’s auto industry has now reported year-over-year sales declines in three consecutive months. The size of the market was 3.5 percent smaller in the August-October period of 2016 than during the same stretch in 2015.

Yet during the same period, U.S. sales of General Motors’ six full-size SUVs jumped 39 percent, a rate of success that throws pie in the face of an industry that’s now fading.

In October, however, the market’s fade became much more apparent. Industry-wide sales slid 6 percent, year-over-year, the worst monthly downturn since the recession. Yet at the same time, General Motors reported a 59-percent surge in full-size SUV volume worth nearly 12,000 additional sales.


Of course, the market’s October slowdown wasn’t as severe as it appears, and GM’s full-size SUV uptick is likewise not as inexplicable as it first appears.

The auto industry’s seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 18 million units was the highest of any month this year and higher than all but three months last year. The quirky auto sales calendar — “October 2015” extended two days into November; October 2016 was two days shorter — also means the daily selling rate grew 1 percent, year-over-year. Achieving this level of volume wasn’t easy — the average per-vehicle incentive in October 2016 was 16 percent higher than in October 2015.

As for GM’s extraordinary full-size SUV growth, big discounts on remaining 2016s played a factor, as did a huge increase in fleet volume. Automotive News reports that the average transaction price among the Chevrolet/GMC quartet was $2,470 lower than the year-to-date average in October. Fleet volume, meanwhile, quadrupled to form 32 percent of the Chevrolet/GMC full-size SUV total, Automotive News reported.


Modern full-size SUV fleet volume, remember, isn’t tarnished by the old reputation of fleet sales tied exclusively to daily rental companies. GM told AN that the huge uptick in fleet sales was linked to commercial and government fleet, higher-margin fleet avenues for vehicles that already produce huge profits.

Yet a 33-percent surge in retail sales of the dual Chevrolet/GMC twins makes clear that the huge October increase in overall GM full-size sales reflected real demand. These huge figures weren’t merely the result of GM’s need to clear out of stock.

Fully 12 percent of the new vehicles sold by General Motors in October were Cadillac Escalades and ESVs, Chevrolet Tahoes, Chevrolet Suburbans, and GMC Yukons and XLs, up from 7 percent a year ago. With the full-size pickup trucks on which these SUVs are based suffering an 8-percent sales decline in October, GM produced nearly one-third of its K2XX-platform volume with SUVs. A year ago, the SUVs generated barely more than one-fifth of that overall full-size volume.

GM VehiclesOctober 2016YOY % Change10 Months 2016YOY %ChangePassenger Cars69,835-14.1%732,928-7.5%Other SUVs/Crossovers72,892-1.1%660,143-9.5%Full-Size Pickup Trucks64,818-7.6%654,814-2.7%Full-Size SUVs31,21359.2%226,62015.5%Midsize Pickup Trucks13,36341.0%120,61626.8%Commercial Vans6,505-25.9%75,902-1.1%Total258,626-1.7%2,471,023-3.6%


In the sector controlled by the Chevrolet/GMC quartet, full-size volume brand SUVs, GM’s market share shot up to 81 percent in October 2016, up eight points from the year-ago period.

At the top of the leaderboard, Chevrolet Tahoe sales jumped 81 percent to 11,976 units, enough to make the Tahoe America’s 13th-best-selling SUV/crossover overall.

Gone are the glory days — the Tahoe ranked fourth overall as recently as 2007. But sales of the Tahoe were higher in October 2016 than at any point in the last nine years. October was just the seventh month in the last 106 that Tahoe volume climbed into five-digit territory.

So where’s our Buick Encounter?

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • Frylock350 Frylock350 on Nov 09, 2016

    I'm in the market for a Suburban and this isn't going to help me get a good deal.

  • Kmars2009 Kmars2009 on Nov 09, 2016

    Although these are good looking Utes, I understand their quality is rated one of the top 10 worst. Not surprising for a GM product. I guess checking carcomplaints.com, before purchasing, would be your best bet. I look at former gen trucks, and see them looking like junk already.

    • Xcalibur255 Xcalibur255 on Nov 09, 2016

      The new 8-speed transmissions are the primary reliability issue. The lower trim levels that still have the 6-speed are more reliable ironically.

  • SPPPP Aggression is pretty much the reason that racing exists, so I am going to call this an unsolvable problem. It's a contrived scenario in which you take risks to get rewards. You may be able to improve it ... but never eliminate it.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is now our fourth 20th Anniversary GTI, and the third of those four that had major structural modifications for purely aesthetic reasons. I didn't picture Tim as the type to want to join the STANCE YO crowd, but here we are?
  • JMII This is why I don't watch NASCAR, it just a crash fest. Normally due the nature of open-wheel cars you don't see such risky behavior during Indy car events. You can't trade paint and bump draft with an Indy car. I thought it was a sad ending for a 500. While everyone wants a green flag finish at some point (3 laps? 5 laps?) red flagging it is just tempting people too much like a reset button in a game.The overall problem is the 500 is not a "normal" race. Many one-off competitors enter it and for almost every driver they are willing to throw away the entire season championship just to win the "500". It sure pays way more then winning the championship. This would be like making a regular season NFL game worth more then the Super Bowl. This encourages risky behavior.I am not sure what the fix is, but Indy's restart procedures have been a mess for years. If I was in charge the rule would be pit speed limiter until the green flag drops at a certain place on the track - like NASCARs restart "zone". Currently the leader can pace the field however they wish and accelerate whenever they choose. This leads to multiple false and jumped starts with no penalty for the behavior. Officals rarely wave off such restarts, but that did happened once on Sunday so they tried to make driver behave. The situation almost didn't happen as there were two strategies in the end with some conserving fuel and running old tires, driving slower with others racing ahead. However the last caution put everyone on even terms so nobody had advantage. It always gets crazy in the last few laps but bunching up the field with a yellow or red flag is just asking for trouble.
  • Tim Healey Lol it's simply that VWVortex is fertile ground for interesting used cars!
  • Jalop1991 I say, install gun racks.Let the games begin!