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From the start, Cruze sales move into the fast lane

Published: Thu, November 4, 2010 @ 12:10 a.m.

Staff/wire report


The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze jumped out of the gates with high sales last month, despite a limited supply of the new Lordstown-built compact car.

General Motors sold 5,048 Cruze units in October, the car’s first full month of sales, the automaker said Wednesday. The Cruze, which went on sale in international markets last year, already is Chevrolet’s top-selling car with more than 210,000 units sold globally in 2010.

The GM Lordstown Complex, which launched production on the North American model in September, has been working hard to keep up with demand for the Cruze, said plant spokesman Tom Mock.

The plant has been accelerating the line slowly and likely will reach full production sometime in December, Mock said.

Sales likely will increase as dealerships start to build up inventory, he said, adding that Cruze shipments are just starting to reach auto dealers on the West Coast.

“It’s been a great start; we are very pleased,” Mock said. “Our dealers are telling us that they need more.”

The plant continues to emphasize quality over production speed, said Jim Graham, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112, which represents workers at the assembly plant.

“We would love to get more cars out,” Graham said. “But we’d rather be safe than sorry. This car is the future of General Motors.”

Cruze sales were similar to last year’s sales of its precursor, the Chevrolet Cobalt, also built at the Lordstown plant. GM sold 5,055 Cobalts in October 2009.

In light of the Cruze’s limited availability, the comparable sales numbers are a good sign the new compact will out-sell its predecessor, said David Green, president of the UAW Local 1714 at the Lordstown West Complex.

“Demand for the car is good, and we are still not at a full rate [of production],” Green said. “We are making a little over 300 cars per shift, so we are still working out the kinks.”

Overall, GM posted a 3.5 percent sales increase in October. The company, which is preparing for an initial stock offering expected later this month, saw its sales for its core brands — Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac — rise 13 percent.

The increase was driven by improved truck sales and a 36 percent rise in sales of SUVs and crossover vehicles such as the Chevrolet Equinox and the GMC Terrain.

As a whole, U.S. auto sales rose in October as buyers grew slightly more confident in the economy and new models drew them into dealerships.

“The trends are positive, and we are going in the right direction,” said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends at car pricing tracker TrueCar.com. Sales aren’t increasing as fast as the industry would like, he said, but “we are seeing more confidence by consumers to make big-ticket purchases in an uncertain economic environment.”

Automakers are expecting to sell around 11.5 million vehicles this year, up from a 30-year low of 10.4 million in 2009.

Ford Motor Co.’s sales rose 19.2 percent, led by big increases in trucks and small cars. Sales of the F-Series pickup rose 24 percent, due in part to a monthlong truck promotion.

Chrysler Group’s sales were up 37 percent from last October, partly on the strength of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, which saw sales more than triple.

October sales also were strong for Honda, Hyundai, Subaru and Volkswagen.

But Toyota, which has been dealing with repercussions from its sudden-acceleration recalls earlier this year, saw sales drop 4.4 percent.

Rising sales of its crossover wagons and pickups failed to offset a double-digit drop in Toyota’s car sales. The Japanese automaker has pulled back on incentives, which rose significantly in the spring after the company recalled millions of vehicles over safety problems.

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