Autos

General Motors' U.S. sales slumped in the first quarter, trailing rival Toyota's

Key Points
  • GM's U.S. sales fell 20.1% from a year ago, after supply-chain disruptions left dealers with thin inventories.
  • Toyota faced similar challenges, but was able to squeeze GM for the U.S. sales crown again.

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A Chevrolet pickup truck is seen at the Knapp Chevrolet dealership on February 02, 2022 in Houston, Texas.
Brandon Bell | Getty Images

General Motors' first-quarter U.S. sales fell 20% from a year ago, in line with analysts' expectations, as ongoing supply-chain issues disrupted its production and kept dealers' inventories tight.

But GM's North America chief said that supplies of semiconductor chips are improving, and that he expects that GM will be able to post year-over-year sales increases by the second half of 2022.

GM's factories were able to operate at "close to normal levels" in the first quarter, said Steve Carlisle, president of GM's North America business unit.

The time lag between production and deliveries to dealers meant that GM's total U.S. sales lagged those  of rival Toyota, which took the U.S. sales crown from GM in 2021. GM delivered 512,846 vehicles in the first quarter. Toyota said that its first-quarter U.S. sales fell 14.7% from a year ago, to 514,492 vehicles.

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GM has been scrambling to rebuild dealer inventories that have been hit hard by production cuts amid a global shortage of semiconductor chips and other key automotive components. GM said that it was able to increase its production in North America sequentially in both the fourth quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022 as chip supplies have improved.

As of the end of March, GM had about 274,000 vehicles in its U.S. inventory, including vehicles in transit to dealers – up from about 200,000 at year end and 129,000 at the end of September.

"Supply chain disruptions are not fully behind us," Carlisle said. "But we expect to continue outperforming 2021 production levels, especially in the second half of the year."

Sales of most GM vehicles were down year-over-year, but there were a few exceptions. GM's big truck-based SUVs – the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and GMC Yukon – all had modestly higher sales than in the first quarter of 2021. So were the heavy-duty versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, as GM prioritized production and deliveries of its most profitable products.

This is developing news. Check back for updates.