GM blames slow month on oth­ers’ in­cen­tives

Auto sales

Austin American-Statesman - - MONEY & MAR­KETS - A worker checks a tag last week at a Ford lot in Niles, Ill. Most au­tomak­ers posted im­pres­sive in­creases last month. TIm bOyle / blOOmbeRG OTHER SALES

sales would run at an an­nual rate of 15.3 mil­lion.

If sales end up at 15 mil­lion for the year, it would be a vast im­prove­ment over the 10.4 mil­lion dur­ing the re­ces­sion in 2009. Sales would still fall short of the re­cent peak of around 17 mil­lion in 2005.

“Ex­actly how much growth we can ex­pect next year will de­pend in part on how Congress and the pres­i­dent re­solve the fis­cal cliff is­sue,” said Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. sales chief. “Mar­kets and con­sumers hate un­cer­tainty.”

McNeil and other GM ex­ec­u­tives tried to ex­plain the au­tomaker’s dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mance. GM’s big­gest brand, Chevro­let, re­ported flat sales over last year de­spite new prod­ucts like the Spark minicar. Sil­ver­ado pickup sales fell 10 per­cent. GM’s sales have been trail­ing the in­dus­try all year.

GM said its com­peti­tors re­sorted to higher than usual in­cen­tives last month to get rid of 2012 model-year trucks. GM has been try­ing to hold the line on costly in­cen­tives, which can hurt re­sale value and brand im­age.

Asian brands also got a boost from some un­usu­ally big dis­counts, said Jesse To­prak, se­nior analyst for au­to­mo­tive pric­ing site Other au­tomak­ers re­port­ing sales Mon­day:

Chrysler’s sales were up 14 per­cent. Ram pick­ups were up 23 per­cent, while sales of the Fiat 500 minicar more than dou­bled.

Hyundai’s sales rose 8 per­cent, led by the Sonata mid­size car and the Elantra com­pact. TrueCar said Hyundai in­creased in­cen­tives by 30 per­cent. It was ad­mon­ished by the U.S. gov­ern­ment in late Oc­to­ber for over­stat­ing gas mileage.

Volk­swa­gen’s sales rose 29 per­cent on the strength of the Pas­sat sedan, which was up 75 per­cent.

Nis­san’s sales climbed 13 per­cent as sales of its new Pathfinder SUV more than tripled over last year. TrueCar es­ti­mated that Hyundai and Kia, which were ad­mon­ished by the U.S. gov­ern­ment in late Oc­to­ber for over­stat­ing gas mileage, in­creased in­cen­tive spend­ing by nearly 30 per­cent. Nis­san spend­ing was up 45 per­cent to $4,273 per ve­hi­cle, by far the high­est in­cen­tives in the in­dus­try.

Toy­ota said its 17 per­cent sales in­crease was partly due to post-Sandy de­mand. Honda was up 39 per­cent thanks to strong sales of the new Ac­cord sedan and clear­ance deals on the out­go­ing Civic, which was re­placed by a new 2013 Civic at the end of the month.

Lux­ury cars saw their usual year-end surge as hol­i­day com­mer­cials started crowd­ing the air­waves. Porsche’s sales rose 71 per­cent to 3,865, a record month for the au­tomaker. In­finiti, Acura, BMW and Lexus all re­ported big gains.

Ed­ analyst Jessica Cald­well said lux­ury brands have his­tor­i­cally tar­geted their cus­tomers at this time of year be­cause of hol­i­day bonuses. That’s no longer a driv­ing fac­tor, she said, but it’s still a good time of year for peo­ple to buy 2012 model-year lux­ury ve­hi­cles be­cause deal­ers are try­ing to clear them out.

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