Autos

GM's 2019 sales decline after discontinuing some models and demand falls for trucks, SUVs

Key Points
  • GM sold nearly 2.9 million vehicles in 2019, including more than 1 million crossovers for the second year in a row.
  • The Detroit automaker's results are in line with analysts' expectations for the company, however worse than the 1% decline expected for the overall industry in 2019.
  • GM's crossover sales for the year were up 12.7%, while passenger cars declined 30.5% and trucks slipped 2%.
The 2020 Chevy Silverado 4x4 Custom Crew Cab
Mack Hogan | CNBC

DETROIT – General Motors' sales slipped in 2019 as it discontinued some models and demand for its profitable pickups and full-size SUVs fell.

GM on Friday said it sold nearly 2.9 million vehicles last year, a 2.3% decline compared with 2018. That includes a drop of 6.3% to 735,909 vehicles in the fourth quarter from the last three months of 2018.

Shares of GM were down 3% to around $36.25 on Friday afternoon.

The Detroit automaker's results are in line with analysts' expectations for the company, however worse than the 1% decline expected for the overall industry in 2019.

GM sold more than 1 million crossovers for the second year in a row, an increase of 12.7% from 2018. That wasn't enough to make up for the 30.5% decline in passenger cars and a 2% slide in trucks, which include pickups, fulls-size SUVs and vans.

"We've focused our resources on what our customers want – crossovers and trucks – and that has paid off," Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations at GM, said in a release.

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In the fourth quarter, GM said crossover sales rose 5.8% while demand for passenger cars plummeted 35.1% and trucks declined 5.9%.

Sales for the company's Buick, Cadillac and GMC brands were flat or slightly up for 2019, while the company's largest brand, Chevrolet, declined 3.8%. Most notably, sales of the redesigned Chevrolet Silverado were down by about 2.6%, including a 7.5% drop for its heavy-duty pickup models.

Production and sales of the heavy-duty pickups were hurt by a 40-day strike by the United Auto Workers union that ended in October and as well as a changeover of the pickup to a redesigned model.

In October, GM CFO Dhivya Suryadevara estimated the strike cost the company about 300,000 units in lost production.

GM's overall sales for the year were also impacted by the discontinuation of several passenger car models, including the Chevrolet Volt, Chevrolet Cruze and Buick LaCrosse.

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All of GM's brands reported sales declines in the fourth quarter, led by an 8.5% drop for GMC and 6.1% fall for Chevrolet. Buick dropped 4.3%, while Cadillac slid 2.2%.

Analysts expect U.S. light-duty vehicle sales declined about 1% last year to roughly 17 million vehicles compared with 2018. Such results are considered healthy but would mark the lowest sales since 16.5 million vehicles in 2014.