By Burton Speakman
October sales of the Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze were up 34 percent over last year, continuing three straight months of exceptional sales.
Overall, there were 19,121 models sold in October, nearly 5,000 more than the 14,295 sold in October 2011. For the year, 199,721 Cruzes have been sold, which is 1 percent behind last year’s pace.
Earlier in the year, sales lagged behind the 2011 totals, but in the last three months the company has posted double-digit sales increases compared with the previous year. The last two months have been among the best selling in the vehicle’s history.
Kristen Andersson, senior analyst at TrueCar.com, an automotive information website, said this was another solid month for GM and a great month for the Cruze.
“The small-car segment is here to stay,” she said. “It’s a change for consumers. Even when gas prices are down, it’s still in the consumers’ minds that they could go back up.”
The small cars, such as the Cruze, provide consumers with a better value for their money, Andersson said.
October is typically a month with strong truck sales, and GM had increases in truck sales, but it was a “robust month” for small cars for the company, said Michelle Krebs, senior auto analyst for Edmunds.com, another automotive information site.
“Chevrolet Cruze had a big month, and Chevrolet Sonic continues to be strong. Other GM cars that posted decent results were the Buick Verano — which pushed the entire Buick brand to the plus side, despite sales declines for other Buick models — and the Cadillac ATS,” she said.
Sales of the Cruze were part of an overall increase in the mini-, small- and compact-car segment, which GM is reporting has increased by 72 percent over last October’s figures, according to GM.
“With new designs like the Chevrolet Spark, Buick Verano and Cadillac ATS, and a growing reputation for quality and good resale value, we are becoming an even more formidable competitor in every segment — not just traditional GM strongholds like trucks,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations.
Through the rest of the year, small cars should continue to have solid sales, but traditional seasonal increases should occur in the truck, luxury and sport utility vehicle segments, Andersson said.
In addition, incentives are at their lowest levels in more than a year with automakers able to offer lease and finance rates at very low costs, said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst at TrueCar.
“Transaction prices in October have remained just as stable as the sales rates of automakers have maintained incentives-spending discipline throughout the year,” Toprak said. “Prices are expected to remain high as consumers continue to gravitate toward technology-enriched vehicles.”
The Cruze intentionally has among the lowest incentive spending in its segment as part of conscious effort by GM, McNeil said. Lower-incentive spending improves resale value and helps GM make more profit for each vehicle sold.
GM should see increased sales over the next few months because of damage from Hurricane Sandy, Andersson added. The storm had a negative sales impact on the last weekend of October and will continue to affect the first week of November.
“In the next 60 to 90 days, there are going to be a number of people who need to replace their vehicles,” she said.