General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM), North America’s largest automaker, announced Thursday it sold 234,071 cars and light trucks in July, a 16 percent rise from last year on robust demand for smaller sedans from the retail buyer and the rollout of the newest Chevrolet Silverado, the second-best-selling vehicle in America.
“July was the most well-balanced month of the year from a retail sales standpoint: Trucks were hot, but so were small cars and family vehicles,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations. “Our experience shows that the difference between good sales and great sales in a slow-growth economy is how many new products you have to offer.”
The Detroit Three – GM, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) and Chrysler Group LLC – sold 567,888 units last month, down nearly 15 percent from a strong June but up an average of 12.7 percent from the year-ago period.
“The domestic manufacturers are experiencing their best July sales numbers since about 2006 -2007, indicating the American car market is recovering and consumers are taking note of the compelling product offerings from GM, Ford and Chrysler,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “GM's push to introduce a wide array of new vehicles over the past 12 months is paying off in strong retail sales and growing market share. ... GM is introducing highly competitive models in nearly every category.”
GM’s seasonally adjusted annualized rate estimate (SAAR) for all U.S. car and light truck sales stand at 15.7 million for July and 15.4 million for the year. That’s up from 14.5 million last year as the U.S. auto industry still recovers from the financial crisis that sent annual car sales to a dismal 10.4 million in 2009. The SAAR is a key metric for measuring the month-by-month annual performance in the sector.
GM spends more than its competitors on incentives like rebates and low-interest loans, which eat into profits. The industry average incentive estimated by Edmunds.com stood in July at $2,463; GM spent $3,446 on each sale last month. TrueCar.com estimated that GM’s average per-unit transaction price last month was $33,364; only Volkswagen (including Audi and Porsche) had higher closing prices on their autos.
GM did well with its passenger cars – a traditionally weak segment for U.S. automakers compared to their Japanese and European competitors. Sales rose 24 percent for GM in this segment, led by a 70 percent jump in the Chevrolet Cruze, the company’s top-selling sedan, and the Impala, which jumped 38 percent. Last week Consumer Reports anointed the 2014 Impala the best sedan in America.
Sales of the new Cadillac ATS and XTS luxury sedans rose by more than a third from the past year, while the Chevrolet Equinox crossover had its best July retail sales, up by 9 percent. Retail sales exclude fleet purchases from companies and governments and reflect purely consumer demand.
Most industry watchers expect U.S. July auto sales to come in at about 1.3 million units.