Chevrolet Cruze sales increased by nearly 8 percent in March, bucking the trend of sluggish sales in the small-car segment, General Motors Co. reported Tuesday.
Deliveries of the Lordstown-built Cruze went from 21,607 in March 2012 to 23,260 last month, breaking a two-month sales decline.
Analysts attributed the increase to new incentives offered on the Cruze and significant sales declines on other models such as the Chevrolet Malibu and Chevrolet Sonic.
“Those are big, strong numbers. Any time you’re above 20,000 units, that’s good,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with the automotive information website Edmunds.com. “If you look at the Malibu, its sales were down 22 percent. I believe there’s been some interplay going on between those models.”
The Malibu is slightly bigger than the Cruze, and the Sonic is smaller. The sales figures for the models have toggled in recent months. The Malibu has been heavily incentivized heading into the new year, but in March, GM offered more than $2,000 in incentives on the Cruze, which offered the potential of lowering its retail price from $17,940 to $15,700.
“Small compact cars and mid-sized sedans did pretty bad in March, except for the Cruze,” said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with TrueCar.com, another automotive website. “Pent-up demand pushed buyers toward crossovers, SUVs and trucks. I suspect those incentives helped to sell the Cruze.”
Glenn Johnson, president of the United Auto Workers, Local 1112 at Lordstown, said regardless of some disappointments, sales figures have been steady over the life cycle of the Cruze, adding “it’s fantastic news anytime we’re able to be one of the top-selling cars in our segment.”
In all, GM sold 245,950 vehicles in the U.S. last month, up 6 percent compared with a year ago.
Sales of GM’s Crossovers, a vehicle built on a car platform with the features of an SUV, were up 31 percent in March. Trucks, which include pickups, vans and SUVs, were up 2 percent, while overall car sales were down 3 percent across the company’s brand. Clear winners at GM last month were Cadillac and Buick. Cadillac, out with a revamped line last year and preparing a new CTS this year, improved its sales by 50 percent. Buick, which added the Encore to its refreshed line, saw sales jump 37 percent.
“GM delivered its best March sales in five years thanks to a strengthening economy and new products, and we are expecting our third consecutive increase in market share versus last year,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales.
Despite a drop in small- car sales in the U.S., analysts said March was a strong month for automakers. Some had feared that a barrage of winter storms throughout the month, combined with the Easter holiday would slow sales.
Improved consumer confidence and more construction from an increase in U.S. housing sales led to more purchases of trucks and SUVs last month.
“Car shoppers seem unfazed by issues in the news,” said Lacey Plache, chief economist at Edmunds.com.
CONTRIBUTOR: Associated Press