Over the First Three Quarters of 2018, Only Four GM Cars Have Anything to Brag About

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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.

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Alfaromeo Alfaromeo on Oct 04, 2018

    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.).

    • See 1 previous
    • Gtem Gtem on Oct 04, 2018

      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.

  • Crazyforwheels Crazyforwheels on Oct 04, 2018

    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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