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GM Zero interest spikes sales



Published: Fri, August 2, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Overall, GM's sales were up 24 percent in July, and its Lordstown-built Cavalier continued as a top seller.

STAFF/WIRE REPORTS

DETROIT -- General Motors reported sales of its Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cavalier were up a whopping 27.7 percent in July, part of an overall midsummer sales spike fueled by rebates and zero percent interest incentives.

The automaker sold 16,404 Cavaliers in July, compared with 12,331 a year ago. Dealers had sold 156,015 between Jan. 1 and July 31, an 8.1 percent increase over the same period in 2001.

GM Lordstown's Pontiac Sunfire did not do as well. Dealers sold 4,799 Sunfires in July, up 4.2 percent from July, 2001, and year-to-date sales were 45,846, down 5.1 percent from the first seven months of 2001.

Only two GM car models, the Chevrolet Impala and Malibu, surpassed Cavalier's sales numbers. Dealers sold 19,297 Impalas and 17,066 Malibus. Other high sellers include the Pontiac Grand Am (16,006), Buick LeSabre (15,773), Buick Century (15,912) and the Saturn S series (13,894).

GM also led all the major automakers with a 24 percent spike in sales last month. "Our sales, quite simply, were terrific," Paul Ballew, GM executive director of market analysis and research, said in a conference call with securities analysts.

Sales of GM light trucks were up 36.5 percent, and passenger car sales increased 11 percent over July of last year.

Relying on the warranty

DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group reported a 3.4 percent decline in monthly U.S. vehicle sales compared to July 2001.

However, the automaker reported record sales for its Jeep Liberty, with a 23 percent increase over July of last year.

Chrysler has resisted relying on incentives as much as GM and Ford Motor Co., preferring to showcase its seven-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty.

"We'll continue to take a competitive and strategic approach rather than ... a nuclear approach," Gary Dilts, Chrysler senior vice president sales, said in a teleconference.

Ford Motor Co. reported its first monthly sales increase of 2002, due to a 4 percent increase in sales to retail customers.

July sales of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brand cars and trucks were up less than 1 percent from July 2001.

Ford's top sales analyst credited in part a zero percent interest incentive program that began early in July as the catalyst for the sales increase.

"Each of the domestic brands did better this month than we did in the previous six months, and that is a source of optimism on an ongoing basis," George Pipas said during a teleconference with reporters and securities analysts.

Encouraging numbers

Pipas estimated that Ford's U.S. market share was nearly 21 percent, which he called encouraging, but not as large as the automaker would like.

Last month was the best ever July for Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. The Japanese automaker reported a 4.7 percent increase over July 2001.

"The resumption of zero percent financing and a wide range of discounts and sweet incentives have drawn buyers back into the market," Jim Press, Toyota executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Sales for American Honda Motor Co. were up 7.2 percent; Nissan North America Inc. saw its sales rise 5.6 percent from July 2001; and Subaru of America Inc. reported its best July ever.

July marked the 18th consecutive record month for Hyundai Motor America, which saw sales grow 13.3 percent last month compared to July 2001.




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