Domestic carmakers showed some new life in April as General Motors Corp., Chrysler Group LLC. and Ford Motor Co. all posted sales gains of 20% or better for the first time in years.
The big jump in sales came against very weak sales of by all three carmakers just a year ago when speculation about the impending bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler, which filed for Chapter 11 protection on April 30, 2009.
Nevertheless, Chrysler last month posted a 25% sales increase, which was its best year-over-year sales improvement since July 2005.
“April was a very positive month for Chrysler Group, with concrete results that highlight the company is on-track and gaining momentum,” contended Fred Diaz, the top executive for Chrysler’s sales organization.
The increase, the executive noted, came soon after the smallest of the domestic makers – now controlled by the Italian automaker Fiat, reported a $143 million profit for the first quarter, defying many of the observers who have been forecasting a quick demise of Chrysler after last year’s bankruptcy.
“We are hungry to continue building on the sales improvements – we are just getting started,” Diaz said.
GM reported total sales for the four North American brands the company retained after its own bankruptcy totaled 183,091 during the month, up 20% increase from a year ago. For the calendar year-to-date, combined total sales for Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac are up 31%, GM reported.
The continued year-over-year sales increases are largely being driven by the company’s new products, such as the Chevy Equinox, which now represent one of every four GM vehicles sold at retail, GM officials said.
“Clearly, our launch vehicles are hitting the mark with consumers who are looking for bold styling, quality, safety and fuel efficiency,” said Steve Carlisle, GM’s vice president of U.S. Sales Operations. “But our results aren’t limited to just our newest vehicles. Sales of our full-size pickups and our mid-sized crossovers continue to strengthen.”
Retail sales of GM’s full-size pickups, the Chevrolet Silverado, Avalanche and GMC Sierra were up a combined 20% in April, and are up 8% year-to-date.
“The good news is that we have more on the way, including the all-new Buick Regal, this spring, and the Chevrolet Cruze, in the third quarter,” Carlisle said.
GM and Ford also upended predictions that Toyota was poised to claim the lead in U.S. sales. The Toyota brand had a good month but, overall, GM and Ford outsold Toyota, despite is use of record-level incentives to attract buyers, last month.
Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service, said Ford continued to post strong sales and market share gains in April, delivering 162,996 new vehicles in April – a 25% increase versus a year ago. It marks the fifth month in a row Ford sales have increased more than 20%. Year-to-date sales have totaled 591,592, up 34%.
Emily Kolinski Morris, Ford senior U.S. economist, said consumer confidence is on the upswing and the number of consumers saying now is not a good time to purchase a new car was at its lowest reading since September of 2007.
“Vehicle sales tend to increase ahead of the drop in jobless claims,” she said. “As those figures decline we’d expect to see an increase in car sales.”
Ford has gained retail market share for 18 of the last 19 months, as more buyers turn to Ford’s fresh line-up of fuel-efficient vehicles
“Customers are benefiting from our strong new product lineup,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing Sales and Service.