Halftime: GM’s Vehicle Sales Dip, So Why Is the Automaker Pleased?

Wednesday, 1 Jun 2011 | 1:34 PM ET

General Motors said Wednesday its total vehicle sales in May fell slightly from a year ago.

Overall sales were down 1.2 percent and sales of its Chevrolet brand, including its top-selling Silverado pickup truck, fell 3.5 percent.

Despite that headline, General Motors was feeling pretty positive about the news.

“We were pretty pleased with the month,” Don Johnson, GM’s Vice President of U.S. Sales told the “Fast Money” team. “You have to dig into those numbers and when you do what you’ll see is our retail sales were actually up 9 percent.”

The decline was driven by a planned reduction in fleet sales, he said. “It is in line with what our strategy has been this year.”

GM was the first automaker to report sales on Wednesday. Analysts expect overall U.S. sales to fall four percent from last May due to fewer deals, a shortage of models due to the earthquake in Japan and uncertainty over high gas prices.

But General Motors sees a silver lining. Because gas prices have sent consumers looking for fuel efficient vehicles, its Chevrolet Cruze, Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain all had “record months,” Johnson noted.

The Detroit-based car manufacturer also believes it could benefit from its competitors’ low inventory in the next couple months.

GM May Sales Down
Discussing GM's lower car sales and future growth prospects, with Don Johnson, General Motors, and CNBC's Phil Lebeau. The Fast Money traders weigh in on which trades you should consider today.

“There are going to be customers in the market who will turn to us to fill their vehicle needs,” Johnson believes.

But he said that’s not the whole story. He thinks the company’s new products will propel GM’s sales back up.

While automaker reported an annualized industry sales rate for May would be 12.1 million vehicles, Johnson believes that number will exceed 13 million later in the summer and will hit 14 million on a monthly basis by the end of the year.

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