Autos

GM sales fall, but buyers clamor for trucks and SUVs

Key Points
  • General Motors reports first-quarter sales that fell 7 percent from a year ago.
  • But the automaker says buyers are flocking to its sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.
  • It says Trucks, SUVs and crossovers made up 80 percent of GM's sales.
Trucks come off the assembly line at GM's Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup truck plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, July 25, 2018. 
John Gress | Reuters

General Motors reported first-quarter sales on Tuesday that fell 7 percent from a year ago but said buyers are flocking to its more expensive sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

Transaction prices, the final sales price, on the company's newest pickups rose $8,040 compared with the outgoing models in the same quarter of 2018, reflecting the continued interest among buyers for well-equipped trucks. More than 96 percent of the GMC Sierra crew cab pickup, a four-door full-size truck, were sold with more expensive high-end trims.

VIDEO0:4700:47
General Motors Q1 sales down 7% from same period last year

Signs have shown that new car sales are slowing in the United States. Yet demand for trucks and SUVs, which tend to be more profitable, could buoy automakers and somewhat offset the effects of a slowdown. Trucks, SUVs and crossovers made up 80 percent of GM's sales, the company said.

The company said sales of smaller crossovers such as the Chevrolet Trax and Equinox, as well as its midsize Chevrolet Colorado pickup, all set first-quarter sales records, while the GMC Acadia SUV had its best quarter ever.

GM plans to launch more full-size pickups in the second half of the year with two new heavy duty pickups from Chevrolet and GMC.

"We are bullish on pickups and expect to gain sales momentum throughout the year," said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations. "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."

However, sales of traditional passenger cars continued to slide, dragging down the automaker's total.

General Motors has undertaken a plan to reshape its business, including idling factories that produce slow-selling sedans and compact cars and consequently cutting 14,000 jobs at factories in the U.S. and Canada. The move has divided opinion. Supporters say the company is taking the necessary steps to improve profitability, but labor leaders and politicians from affected regions have criticized the decision.

Shares of GM have risen 5.6 percent over the last 12 months and are up by nearly 13 percent since the beginning of the year.

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How America fell back in love with trucks and SUVs