GM strike hasn’t hurt sales, has it? Ford falls, FCA doesn’t, and Tesla hits a record
The GM strike isn’t hurting sales so far, if we can generalize from the company’s U.S. sales over the last quarter. GM had a gain of 6.2%, while Ford fell 5.1% and FCA stayed just about the same. Not surprisingly, GM kept its lead over Ford, with sales of 737,270 for the quarter vs Ford’s 576,006 and Fiat Chrysler’s surprisingly strong 565,034.
For the year, GM has sold 2.1 million cars and trucks (down 0.9% vs the same period in 2018); Ford sold around 1.8 million (down 3.8%); and FCA rounded up to 1.7 million (down 1.1%). GM’s sales were spread across 39 nameplates; Ford’s were tighter, with just 25 nameplates. FCA, surprisingly, didn’t really have more nameplates than Ford, despite the larger number of brands: if we only count cars that are still made or have sales of over ten, FCA covered 23 nameplates, including four at the barely-selling Fiat brand and one hardly noticeable specialty Alfa Romeo sports car (the other two Alfas posted reasonable sales).
At each brand, the sales driver was pickups. Ford’s F-series not only dominates Ford sales, it dominates the industry, with 214,176 sales in the quarter (down 6%). At GM, there are two big pickups, the Silverado series (155,482 in the quarter, up 17%) and the GMC Sierra (66,198 for the quarter, up by 29%). It’s worth noting that GM, as a whole, finally beat Ford’s big pickup sales, if you combine Sierra and Silverado, for the quarter; year to date, there’s no contest, 662,574 Fords to 575,860 GMs. (What of the famed Ram? It beat Chevrolet yet again, with 161,635 sales in the quarter and 461,115, year to date, which is a 23% increase year to date.)
In short, it appears that GM and Ram both grabbed sales from Ford, even as GM faced negative headlines for its reaction to the contract negotiations.
At GM, the biggest problem wasn’t the strike but the dropping of nameplates; Cruze was down 82%, XTS was down 72%, Sonic was down 71%, CTS was down 70%, and Impala was down 41%. Of all those nameplates, the Cruze came down hardest, from nearly 32,000 to 5,800 (third quarter 2019 to third quarter 2018). GM had a bunch of big winners, though; the XT4 easily doubled the old XTS’ figure, the Trax shot up by 82%, the Acadia had a 51% gain, and, most importantly (because it had good sales before, too), the Sierra went up 29%. Despite low gas prices, the Bolt electric vehicle posted 4,830 sales, a 22% gain—but the Volt was dropped, and the sales gain for the Bolt didn’t match the loss from the Volt. (Coming next: the Zolt and the Molt.)
Speaking of electric vehicles, Tesla’s sold around 97,000 cars in the U.S. so far this year, which is a new record for them. The U.S. auto market dropped by around 1.6% year-to-date, with Toyota falling 2.5%, Nissan Mitsubishi falling 6.4%, and Honda dropping around 0.1%.
Sales aren’t everything; increasing low-profit fleet deliveries or slapping cash on the hood can jumpstart sales as well as customer demand.
There’s more to come—including who’s winning the muscle-car race, who wins in big cars and SUVs, and more. Bill Cawthon contributed to this story.
Clark Westfield grew up fixing up and driving past-their-prime American cars, including various GM and Mopar V8s. He has ghostwritten auto news for the last few years, lives in Farmingdale, New York, and can be reached at +1.516-531-4021.