By on October 3, 2018

2018 Buck Regal GS front - Image: Buick

General Motors joined the vast majority of its automotive colleagues in having a crappy sales month in September, posting an 11.1 percent year-over-year volume loss. The issues facing OEMs last month were many. As interest rates rise and the market cools, automakers looking to capture more for their coffers are trending towards reduced fleet sales and lowered incentive spending. Hurricanes also played something of a role.

At GM, which graces us with sales figures just four times a year, what was likely a poor showing in September dragged down the third quarter as well as year-to-date sales, with volume since the start of the year now down 1.2 percent. That doesn’t mean several GM models didn’t have good quarters, or haven’t had good 2018s. Some 18 models can boast of YTD sales gains.

Of those 18, however, just four are passenger cars, and one member of the group already has one and a half feet in the grave.

As it turns out, 13 of those 18 strong selling vehicles also posted monthly gains for the third quarter. It just wasn’t enough to counter losses among other vehicle lines.

Quarters, like months, can be tricky, so we’ll focus just on those vehicles that moved more metal since the beginning of the year. You won’t be surprised to learn that the kings of the BOF set — the Chevrolet Suburban, Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade — all continued to find their way into the hearts and wallets of the American traditionalist. Suburban and Tahoe sales rose 16.6 percent and 15 percent, respectively, on a year-to-date basis, and they’re up for the quarter, too (10.8 percent and 20.1 percent, respectively).

Things get a bit confused with the Yukon and Escalade, as GM no longer separates sales reporting for short- and long-wheelbase models. Still, both nameplates served up more sales than their respective variants did the year before (3.3 percent YTD for Escalade, 1.4 percent for Yukon). Third-quarter sales of the Escalade also showed a 9.5 percent year-over-year increase, while the Yukon squeaked by with just over 400 additional sales.

Just because they’re unibody, doesn’t mean buyers weren’t also attracted to GM’s big crossovers. Chevrolet’s Traverse and its platform mate, the Buick Enclave, enjoyed YTD increases of 20.4 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively. They’re also up 3.1 and 7.1 percent, year over year, in the third quarter. Also continuing in popularity are the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, with the Bowtie pickup up 26.3 percent YTD and its classier sibling up 8.6 percent. Again, sales of both trucks improved in the third quarter compared to the same period last year.

If your next guess for vehicles that stayed out of the red are the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, yes, you’d be right. The Equinox sees a year-to-date sales increase of 10.2 percent, with the Terrain posting a 24.8 percent gain. Of the two, only the Equinox slipped into the red on a quarterly basis, but only by a small amount. It’s a similar story for the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore, which, while falling in the third quarter, still hold a YTD volume gain of 12.4 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively.

For what it’s worth, Chevy sold more Express vans this year than last. Fleet sales in the last quarter, it should be noted, rose 5 percent, year over year. As it awaits its next-generation replacement, the Chevrolet Silverado still boasts a narrow YTD sales gain (1.5 percent).

But what about these valiant passenger cars, you ask? We’ve arrived at that. Of the Cadillac nameplates, only two model saw their fortunes rise this year. One is the CTS, helped by a strong third quarter (it’s up 8.3 percent, year to date). The other is an aging fleet special, the front-drive XTS. A steady performer, Cadillac’s XTS disappears along with the ATS and CTS after the coming model year, unless Caddy decides to pull a Lincoln and keep them in production (a la the MKT). Oshawa Assembly would love it if they did. XTS sales rose 15.9 percent over the first nine months of the year, with quarterly volume seeing almost an identical gain.

New for MY2018, the revamped Buick Regal improved on the wholly invisible 2017 model’s performance, posting a 22.5 percent YTD increase and an 11.4 percent third-quarter bump. Last year’s sell-down likely has a role to play in the health of the Regal’s data.

chevy spark 2018 mint green

The final passenger car to earn bragging rights in GM’s latest filing is a model almost no one thinks of, and I don’t mean the Buick Cascada. It’s the diminutive Chevrolet Spark, which gains a new face for 2019. Spark sales rose 51.9 percent in the third quarter, with TYD volume up 33.2 percent. The small, affordable car is not yet dead, despite what some Twitter users might have you believe, but it’s certainly true that compact and midsize sedans have little to be happy about in 2018.

[Images: General Motors]

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20 Comments on “Over the First Three Quarters of 2018, Only Four GM Cars Have Anything to Brag About...”

  • avatar

    I’ve been seeing a ton of Equinox/Terrains in my area in along with a bunch of new Traverse’s.

    Seen a few new Regals, majority with rental stickers on them. Idk they seem so un-exciting in person. I don’t get the premium feel with the redesign. Oh well.

    Finally, I’ve said it before, but the XTS is the car Cadillac SHOULD be selling. Big, comfortable, no-sportines that their buyers don’t care about. Just a solid sedan.

  • avatar

    Unlike Ford, at least GM will still be in the car business. GM can at least say we are not as bad as Ford. Heck, after looking at recent sales data Chrysler can make the same claim.

    Ford – what s disgrace!

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Uhm…in what way does it make sense to continue producing products that cannot be sold for a decent profit?

      • 0 avatar

        The same way pointing out another carmaker that discontinued most of its cars experienced a sales gain as an example of how wrong Ford’s decision to do the same is, somehow makes sense.

        And the same way one reads about miniscule gains among a tiny handful of cars verses huge gains in trucks, crossovers and SUVs as an example of why Ford is wrong again, even though, like the FCA example, it proves Ford has made the correct business decision.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis


      By your standard, KIA must be the best car company in the world. They keep cars in production that don’t sell worth a sh’t.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m disappointed in Ford’s decision also, but this article is about GM.

  • avatar

    GM’s big US problem is that MB, BMW, and Tesla each sell nearly as many (or more) cars as Buick and Cadillac combined. MB and BMW are also major brands in all the big auto markets of the world, while Buick and Caddy have significant sales outside the US only in China. How the US luxury market has changed in the last 40 years.

  • avatar
    Drew Cadillac

    Regarding the Cadillac XTS – it’s Cadillac’s best selling sedan, and almost certainly their most profitable sedan overall. The idea to kill it comes from the “sports performance” crowd who want to kill anything that isn’t RWD and test-track worthy. In other words, it makes a lot of money for GM, but the sports “purists” would rather lose money than make a comfortable riding FWD Cadillac.

    Barra has to decide who is in charge – the people who want to make money for GM or the people who want to express their personal preferences via the vehicle line-up. GM has already gone bankrupt once already in the past 10 years. Focusing on what the self-appointed “gear heads” prefer, rather than what the public wants and what makes money for GM, is the best way to get to another bankruptcy. And maybe next time the parts are not re-assembled as GM.

    • 0 avatar

      Very few automakers listen to the “purists”. Regarding the car, what would be wrong with a softie trim line, and varying degrees of sportiness trim lines? Tires and tuning make a huge difference. It would be cake to have a CTS as a smoothie with soft springs and smaller passenger tires, a touring model, and a near-track special. GM has done this before…and Olds LSS was very different from a Park Avenue

  • avatar

    Save the XTS!

  • avatar

    Escalade sold almost three times the volume as the Lincoln Expedition. Yet Ford is crowing like they’ve cured cancer.

  • avatar

    I found myself window-shopping Regal Sportbacks, at the level of discounts they’re offering, a basic trim car with the 17 inch alloys seems rather fetching. A German-solid highway cruiser with a very handy hatch for less than $20k. Then I read a few reviews that mentioned the non-defeatable Auto start/stop system…ugh.

  • avatar

    There is rumor about 3rd party auto start/stop defeat device is coming to market. The cost would be about $500. A little expensive, but if that’s the only issue preventing you getting a sportback, it can be work around now. I am interested in the TourX. But the thing pushing me back is low quality interior material (lots of plastic, fake wood, etc.).

    • 0 avatar

      My issue with the TourX is its competition on the same lot.

      Now if that TourX was an Essence trim with leather, heated seats… it would be an easy choice but its a cloth seat one step up from base trim special. While the Terrain is two steps up the trim ladder and is just one step from Denali in content. (LT, SLE, SLT)

      (BTW this dealer is not known for putting BS prices on their website just to lure people in.)

    • 0 avatar

      I really like the exterior styling of the Sportback, and that in contrast to the other “fastback” styled sedans with tiny trunk openings, this one does the logical thing of actually making it a 5 door hatch which is awesome for utility. The price is right, after discounts as well. I’m seeing $18-20k for base cars, in line with regular midsizers with much weaker base motors. I wish I could option the base trim with leather and heated seats as a standalone package but keep the more modest wheels/tires, our potholes are no joke. On that note, the Regal not having a spare tire is also a major downer. The fact that I have to buy a new car and then run around the aftermarket disabling start/stop and hunting down a spare kit does not exactly sell the car unfortunately.

  • avatar

    Pay attention Cadillac !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I bought a 2018 XTS in March 2018. During my purchase I test drove a new 2017 (which was available at a large discount) vs the 2018 I bought for full price. You guys changed the 2018 to make it significantly quieter, give it a smoother ride and you also made the transmission shift unnoticeable.

    Now that’s what Cadillac stands for – quiet luxury. NOT sport suspension, Not gadget junk. Just simple serenity and that’s why the XTS sales are way up.

    I couldn’t believe how the 2017 caddy wasn’t any nicer than the Impala I was trading in. What would be the point in trading up?

    OH yeah – if it had stop-start, I wouldn’t have bought the car.

    Please don’t mess it all up on the coming redesign.

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