By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
LORDSTOWN --Chevrolet Cavalier sales fell for the second straight year as General Motors considers how to replace the aging model.
GM said Thursday that it sold about 233,300 Cavaliers in the United States last year, which is about 2 percent less than the amount sold in 2000.
Before that year, the last time sales were under 250,000 was in 1995 when GM was putting out a redesigned Cavalier. Though the cars were in demand in 1995, GM struggled with putting the cars on the street because of design and production problems.
GM is redesigning the car again, a move that industry analysts say is badly needed if the Cavalier and its twin, the Pontiac Sunfire, are going to compete with newer small car models that have been introduced by other automakers.
Replacement: GM is planning to introduce a replacement for the Cavalier in 2004 but hasn't released details about what it is considering. The future of the Sunfire is uncertain because Pontiac soon will launch another small vehicle, the Vibe, analysts say.
Plant and union officials at GM's Lordstown Assembly Plant expect the company will build the Cavalier replacement there. GM hasn't committed to the long-term future of the plant but has secured a labor agreement and tax incentives for a proposed $500 million remodeling project.
The plant has about 4,300 hourly workers that assemble the Cavalier and Sunfire.
December: The Cavalier ended the year with a lackluster December, despite GM offering low-interest and no-interest financing on all models.
Chevrolet sold about 14,300 Cavaliers last month, which was up less than 1 percent over December 2000.
Sunfire sales were off 27 percent last month at about 3,200. For the year, Sunfire sales were off 13 percent, at about 71,300.
Overall, GM's second month of financing incentives failed to spark sales of passenger cars, which were off 19 percent last month. GM said passenger car sales were hurt by a decline in daily rentals.
Truck sales, however, were up 31 percent in December.
For the year, GM sold about 4.9 million vehicles, which was down about 1 percent from the year before.