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GM reports first-quarter sales gain, record prices despite tight inventory

Jamie L. LaReau, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

DETROIT – General Motors reported Thursday its first-quarter new car sales inched up 4% in the United States on demand for full-size and midsized pickups and SUVs.

GM said it sold 642,250 total new vehicles so far this year compared with 618,335 sold in the same period a year ago.

GM also set a first-quarter record with average transaction prices at $40,353.

“Over the last year, our dealers, supply chain and manufacturing teams have gone above and beyond to satisfy customers as demand for GM products rose sharply,” said Steve Carlisle, GM president of North America. “We are operating our truck and full-size SUV plants at full capacity and we plan to recover lost car and crossover production in the second half of the year where possible.”

GM's chief economist expects consumer spending to keep rising due to stimulus checks, rising vaccination rates and the improving economy. In the quarter, GM's sales of pickups and vans to small businesses increased 27%, a good indicator of a growing economy.

But limited inventory created by pandemic-related production issues and semiconductor chip shortages continue to present challenges for GM and the industry, analysts said.

 

Still, because of the short supply, vehicles are selling at a fast pace, said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of insights.

“We’re still very much in the midst of a deadly pandemic," Caldwell said. "Seeing sales continue at such a strong rate despite all of the challenges presented by COVID-19 is an ongoing testament to the strength of the automotive industry and the confidence of the American consumer.”

As Chevrolet prepares to launch the all-new Bolt EUV and redesigned Bolt EV this summer, sales of the current model Bolt EV had its best first-quarter sales ever, delivering 9,025 cars, a 53.7% increase from the year-ago period.

Total sales, which include fleet and retail, of the midsize Colorado pickup rose 12.4% to 24,083, total sales of the full-size SUV Tahoe increased by 12.9% to 23,038 units, but total sales of the light-duty, heavy-duty and mid-duty Silverado dropped 12.5% to 126,591 sold. Total Chevrolet sales dipped 1.7% to 427,950 vehicles sold.

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