Despite rebates, Cobalt sales fall



December's 19 percent drop was the fourth straight sales decline.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
Chevrolet Cobalt sales dropped again in December even though dealers finally had the cars and rebates they were waiting for.
General Motors Corp. said Wednesday that it sold 13,600 Cobalts in the United States last month, which was down 19 percent from the 16,800 sold in the same month last year.
It was the fourth straight month that sales of the Lordstown-built car were down.
During the fall, GM officials and area car dealers said sales were slow in large part because dealer inventories were low and no rebates were being offered. Dealers predicted sales would explode when those hurdles were resolved.
That hasn't happened.
In early December, GM started offering 500 rebates on the Cobalt, and dealer lots began filling up because the assembly plant in Lordstown was working overtime every day and adding two extra production days each month. Overtime is needed because the plant went from three shifts to two in July, officials said.
Some good news
While there hasn't been an explosion, sales have picked up a bit. December's sales figures were higher than they were in October and November.
GM also sold 1,600 Pontiac G5s last month. This sister car to the Cobalt also is made in Lordstown.
Chris Sammartino, sales manager at Sweeney Chevrolet in Boardman, said the dealership sold about 25 Cobalts last month. Sales had been in the low teens.
"It's better, but it still could be a lot better," Sammartino said.
Cobalt sales probably were held in check because GM was offering attractive incentives for its sport-utility vehicles and the Chevrolet Impala, he said.
He said he expects to begin selling about 40 Cobalts a month, as he did last summer. He is optimistic enough to have 110 Cobalts on the lot, which is where he likes to keep the inventory when demand is high.
"We're stocking very heavy with the anticipation of a good spring," he said.
John M. McDonald, a GM spokesman, said looking at the last few months is too short-term of a view. Monthly sales depend greatly on a variety of factors, including what deals competitors are offering, he said.
McDonald said GM prefers to look at the sales for all of 2006, which were strong at more than 200,000. Sales for the year were down but only slightly, he pointed out.
The drop in sales at the end of last year meant Cobalt sales missed beating 2005 sales numbers by less than 1 percent. In 2006, Cobalt sales were 211,400, compared with 212,700 in 2005.
The Cobalt dropped from being GM's best-selling car to No. 2 behind the Impala.
shilling@vindy.com

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