Hard-pressed General Motors and
Ford Motor Co. surprised analysts and posted sales increases in January, halting
a four-month-long string of sales declines that had cost both companies market
share and had magnified other corporate difficulties.
fleet sales last month, however, helped overcome softness on the retail
side during January, GM and Ford officials said. Future prospects for both
companies were clouded, however, by a decline in truck sales that suggested
consumers are still looking for alternatives to traditional sport-utility
LaNeve, pointing to the 53-percent increase in sales of the Chevrolet
Tahoe, insisted GM’s new full-size SUVs are off to a strong
start. “Sales, production, inventory turn rates and dealer orders are all
ahead of plan. It’s January, it’s early, but we’re optimistic that these
great new products will be successful,” LaNeve added.
sales of other GM SUVs, pickup trucks and crossovers were weak last month.
reported a 7-percent decline in truck and SUV sales. The decline at Ford was
paced by a 23-percent drop in sales of the Explorer and a 30-percent
decline in the sales of the Expedition.
George Pipas, Ford sales analyst, insisted it was too soon to label the new Explorer a flop. “We don’t know what sales would have been without it,” said Pipas, who conceded there was still a lot of pressure on the SUV segment.
and Ford, however, were able to post sales gains for the month thanks to strong
sales of passenger cars. Sales of GM passenger cars increased 15 percent
and Ford passenger car sales increased 18 percent.
pattern prevailed at the Chrysler Group where passenger car sales went up and
sales of trucks declined. “Our car business is up 20 percent, and our LX
products are up 62 percent. The Dodge Caliber begins production (Wednesday) and
gives us a strong entry into the small car segment with an attractive price
starting at $13,985. We are now a full-time car player,” said Gary
Dilts, Chrysler Group senior vice president for sales.
Overall, Chrysler Group sales increased 5 percent last month, ending two months of decline, he added.
passenger car sales of all three companies were clearly bolstered by a strong
dose of fleet sales, which offset a decline in retail sales, officials from GM,
Ford and Chrysler conceded.
of the year traditionally is a strong month for fleet sales by all automakers
and last month was no exception, said Dilts. Overall fleet sales, which include
deliveries to both commercial and rental companies, account for between 20
percent and 25 percent of all light-duty vehicles.
said the strength of Ford’s fleet sales offset a decline in retail sales.
Overall, Ford’s fleet sales increased by 6 percent and are expected to increase
again this year, he said.