Detroit’s General Motors Co. sold 665,840 vehicles in the first quarter of 2019, down 7 percent from “very strong” year-ago figures, with trucks, SUVs, and crossovers comprising 80 percent of the sales mix.
“After a slow start to the year, the retail SAAR (seasonally adjusted annual rate) has risen each month since January,” says Elaine Buckberg, chief economist at GM. “Consumer sentiment continued to recover in March and the other key drivers of auto sales like employment, wage growth, and household balance sheets are healthy.
“The Fed paused in raising interest rates, which eases a headwind facing auto sales. Overall, the U.S. economy is in solid shape, which bodes well for the industry outlook.”
GM says its focus on trucks, SUVs, and crossovers helped it earn the highest average transaction prices for any first quarter in the company’s history.
The Chevrolet Trax, Equinox, and Colorado all set GM first-quarter sales records, according to GM, and the GMC Acadia posted its best quarter ever. The all-new Cadillac XT4 was the best-selling vehicle in its segment and the Buick Enclave was up 28 percent versus a year ago.
The all-new full-size pickups from Chevrolet and GMC also are off to a strong start, says Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of sales operations for GM.
“Our production launch was very smooth and crew cab sales are brisk, especially those with premium trims,” says McNeil. “We look forward to improving availability of our wide-range of cabs, trim series, and powertrains.”
First-quarter average transaction prices for GM’s new, light-duty pickups were $8,040 higher compared to first-quarter results last year for the models they replaced, with the GMC Sierra leading the segment, according to J.D. Power PIN estimates.
Combined sales of the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 crew cabs — the first of the company’s all-new full-size pickups to launch — were up 20 percent year over year.
GM will begin the next phase of its full-size pickup truck launch in the second half of the year with the all-new 2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD.
“We are bullish on pickups and expect to gain sales momentum throughout the year,” says McNeil. “We are installing capacity in Flint to build more HD pickups in total, more crew cab models, more dualies and diesel models, too, all in response to dealer and customer demand.”
Other new models launching this year include the XT6, Cadillac’s first three-row crossover, and the CT5, Cadillac’s new luxury-sport sedan. The all-new Chevrolet Blazer is also gaining momentum, and the brand will begin national advertising for the vehicle during the second quarter as production ramps up.
Inventory is a healthy 818,967 units heading into the second quarter, which tends to be a strong quarter for industry sales, GM says.