Workers are returning to the Lordstown GM complex after a nearly two-month shutdown.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
LORDSTOWN — For Ford, there was a little bit of good news.
For General Motors, there was good news and bad news.
Lordstown-built Cobalt compact car sales fell 43 percent in July compared to July of 2008, despite the “cash for clunkers” federal economic recovery program incentives.
Because the Cobalt is GM’s most fuel-efficient vehicle, it could have qualified some buyers for a $4,500 government rebate, officials said.
General Motors reported overall sales in the United States were down 19 percent in July compared to the same period last year, but were up 16 percent over June of this year.
This compares to Ford’s 2.3 percent increase in sales and Chrysler’s 8 percent drop.
According to GM, it delivered 189,443 total vehicles in July, up nearly 12,000 vehicles over June.
There was some good news for GM. It said Chevrolet, led by the Camaro, and the all-new Equinox, had a year-over-year retail sales improvement. Equinox sales were up 78 percent compared with July 2008, the company said.
GM said the CARS program drove up sales in July. Chevrolet Aveo sales were 124 percent, crossovers Equinox and HHR up 164 and 36 percent, respectively, Cobalt up 38 percent, and GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado midpickup sales climbed 38 percent compared with June.
Diane Sauer, owner of Diane Sauer Chevrolet in Warren, said sales at her dealership were up 152 percent in July over July of 2008.
Sauer credited the “cash for clunkers” program for “helping a lot,” but said part of the problem was that last year she was low on inventory of fuel-efficient vehicles.
“This year we have a good vehicle selection with a lot of fuel-efficient cars. Sales would have been up even without the clunkers program,” she said.
“We’re looking forward to a good August, bolstered by an expected announcement by GM today bringing back a leasing program in a few states, including Ohio.
Sauer said if someone has a “clunker” in drivable condition it makes so much sense to take advantage of the program and get $3,500 or $4.500 from the government in addition to company incentives.
GM blamed this July’s dismal showing compared to July 2008 on declines on a reduction in money-losing sales to car rental companies and other fleet customers.
In other news, the General Motors’ Lordstown plant was to start up Monday with just over 2,000 workers to return to work by Wednesday after a nearly two-month shutdown.
During the shutdown, GM installed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new equipment into the plant to prepare for next year’s launch of the 40-miles-per-gallon Chevrolet Cruze, a replacement for the Cobalt.
The union hopes the Cruze, aided by the “cash for clunkers” federal stimulus program, will lead to another production shift.
GM spokesman Chris Lee says the Cruze will play an important role in the company’s future, particularly if gasoline prices rise.