Sales of Culled GM Sedans Tell the Story

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
sales of culled gm sedans tell the story

We’d love to create our own reality, but it’s not achievable. Not while other people exist. I’d prefer a vehicular landscape populated with vinyl-topped sedans and formal personal luxury coupes and regular cab pickups, but alas, the personal buying choices of millions of consumers have stymied those childhood dreams.

With a few rare exceptions, coupes are now the domain of ballsy muscle cars, not front-drive compacts. Sedans were vanishing even before GM’s Monday decision to cull half-a-dozen four-door models. Fiat Chrysler said goodbye to the compact and midsize field a couple of years ago. Meanwhile, Ford has no plans to populate the roadways with anything other than the Mustang and a bevy of light trucks in the near future.

Sad times for lovers of the traditional car, for sure. Still, General Motors’ decision to shutter underperforming plants in pursuit of higher-margin light trucks (and whatever EV or AV action the future holds) shouldn’t come as a surprise. One look at historical sales figures shows the writing was on the wall for General Motors’ crop of soon-to-be-discontinued sedans.

In 2012, just six years ago, some 58 percent of GM sales in the U.S. involved some form of light truck. Over the first three quarters of 2018, that figure was 79.3 percent. That’s a sea change for an automaker already well-stocked with pickups and SUVs.

Through the end of September, Chevrolet Impala sales fell 13.4 percent, year to date. Compared to the model’s high water mark of 2007, however, the Impala’s Q3 figure is 82.4 percent lower than in the same period of that heady year. Chevy Cruze sales fell 25.6 percent, year to date, in 2018, but the loss grows to 56.8 percent if you contrast it with Q3 2014 figures. 2014 was the Cruze’s best sales year.

As for the Volt, 2016 marked the model’s best sales year, but only by a hair compared to 2012. The American election and subsequent fears of a culled EV tax credit sparked a surge of sales that December, inflating the annual tally. Regardless, Volt sales are down 13.4 percent in 2018, and 18.9 percent from 2016.

You don’t have to guess how the Buick LaCrosse fared during this tumultuous decade. It’s well documented. In 2010, the first full year after the LaCrosse nameplate took over full-size duties from the defunct Lucerne (I still see more Lucernes on the road than LaCrosses), Americans lined up for traditional big-car living, then promptly disappeared. LaCrosse sales over the first three quarters of 2018 are 71.8 percent lower than the same period in 2012, and 14.2 percent lower than the same period last year.

Cadillac’s XTS front-drive full-sizer has already seen one production reprieve in its lifetime, and its execution notice was the only one that didn’t take anyone by surprise. Still, the XTS was a relatively consistent seller thanks to its popularity among livery companies. Sales of the Caddy sedan peaked in 2013, with volume falling 46.6 percent between Q3 2013 and Q3 2018.

As for the CT6 flagship sedan, the model never really took off after its release in 2016 — a fate it shared with Lincoln’s reborn Continental. If the first XT4s hadn’t shown up on the sales ledger in Q3 2018, the CT6 would be the lowest volume vehicle in the Cadillac stable, and even then, sales are down 10.6 percent from a year ago.

Americans buyers don’t care that auto journos wouldn’t be caught dead driving a crossover. The thought of a Chevy Equinox in their driveway appeals to them far more than the thought of a Kia Stinger taking up real estate in front of their home. How many Equinoxes did GM sell over the first three quarters of 2018? 234,379. Put another way, that’s roughly 38,000 more sales than the six GM sedans put together.

Whether or not GM can make use of the Oshawa, Lordstown, or Detroit-Hamtramck plants for new, profitable products remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that the products they did produce had little in the way of a future.

[Images: General Motors]

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  • Hummer Hummer on Nov 28, 2018

    We lost a bunch of FWD unibody mostly 4 cylinder cars - woopee I no longer have to worry about getting these in rentals, worse I don't have to put up with a Impala being considered a "Premium" car while the Hemi charger is considered a normal fullsize. Alongside the Camry and Altima that are inexplicably considered full size despite being small midsize cars.

    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Nov 28, 2018

      And GM tweeted today that many of the laid-off workers will transfer to other plants, if they want to. No doubt there will be more news on this subject tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. President Trump is not pleased about the $54Billion GM cost the US tax payers only to repay the tax payers with lay-offs and plant-closings. Stay tuned. It ain't over 'til it's over.

  • Jim52 Jim52 on Nov 29, 2018

    Faithful reader that posts rarely. Does anyone besides me recall article after article in the last 5 years about flexible and lean manufacturing, as well as platform sharing and component commonality. The experts said automakers could be profitable in runs of under 20,000 units. Clearly at GM, even if sales of the Cruze and others are in decline, they sale far more than that. As a corollary to this: anyone see that PSA turned a profit at Opel in Germany after 1 year of ownership. GM could not do that in 23 years. I hate to say it (as an Ohioan with family/friends/neighbors at risk) I think GM's days are numbered.

  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.
  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.