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GENERAL MOTORS Cobalt sales top 4,500 in first complete month



Published: Wed, January 5, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Production is improving, but still short of the goal.

LORDSTOWN -- In its first full month of sales, December, Chevrolet dealers sold 4,507 of the new Lordstown-built Cobalts, GM announced Tuesday.

Lordstown plant spokesman Tom Mock said 452 of the new compacts were sold in November.

Chevy has a goal of eventually selling about 20,000 Cobalts per month, said auto stock analyst David Healy of Burnham Financial Group of New York City. That's the volume of the Cobalt's predecessor, the Cavalier.

Mock said production of the Cobalt "is still ramping up. Dealers would like to see more cars on the lot. But we're making sure we are producing good quality."

1,000 a day

After a weeklong vacation shutdown, Mock estimated that the three shifts are now producing about 1,000 cars a day. "There's a good cadence of trucks leaving the complex," he said. "There goes another one now."

That's short of the goal of 1,200 per day but far more than in December, when the average rate was less than half that, Healy said.

Since September start-up, 25,994 Cobalts have been built, Healy said, more than half of those in December.

Lordstown has wrestled with some start-up issues. With the design calling for tighter tolerances than the Cavalier, early production was slowed by metal-fitting issues, Mock acknowledged. And the first 1,800 cars were recalled for a headlight problem, many that hadn't even left Lordstown.

"These are normal to any new start-up," Mock said.

Cavalier sales

As a result, the Cavalier, with 8,800 sales, continued to outpace the Cobalt in December, even though the last one rolled down the line Oct. 13, Healy said.

Mock says there are no hard and fast deadlines, but the industry buzz is that start-up timetables are slipping a bit. Only just before Christmas did Lordstown start producing two-door coupes along with sedans, which have been in production since September. Eventually, a coupe will roll off the line for every three sedans.

Start-up issues also mean that the supercharged SS coupe that was highlighted in a New Year's weekend advertising blitz won't be built for sale until mid-February, though some early test models are rolling off the line.

The Cobalt is built on an entirely new platform and is designed to make Chevy not only a high-volume producer of compact cars, but competitive against fully-loaded Toyota Corollas, Honda Civics and Volkswagen Jettas in the premium compact sector.




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