Sales of the Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze dropped by a little more than 3 percent in January, when compared with a year earlier, despite a stellar 16 percent increase for all of General Motors sales last month.
Cruze deliveries dropped to 14,524 in January, from 15,049 a year earlier. It was only in December that the Cruze had outdone itself with purchases up 27 percent, ending a six-month string of double-digit sales increases for the model after GM announced sales figures Friday.
Overall, retail sales were up by 24 percent and fleet sales were down by 2 percent across all GM’s models. The year started well for the company, with the Chevrolet Sonic, Cadillac ATS and Buick Verano leading the way.
“The year is off to a very good start for General Motors,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations, in a statement. “There’s a sense of optimism among our dealers that only comes when you pair a growing economy with great products.”
January’s highlights included a 47 percent increase in Cadillac sales. The brand had its highest January retail sales in 23 years. Year-over-year sales were up 32 percent at Buick, 23 percent at GMC and 11 percent at Chevrolet.
In all, GM surpassed forecasts at Truecar.com, an automotive information website, which projected it would sell 191,000 units last month. The company reported it sold 195,000, while sales improved at a rate slightly above industry averages, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with Truecar.
For the Cruze, which performed strongly in the latter half of 2012, the decrease in last month’s sales figures was somewhat expected.
“It had a fast growth rate for so long — it was bound to slow down at some point,” Toprak said. “GM pushed the model in December with incentives and then pulled back in January. When you do that, it tends to hurt sales the following month.”
Toprak added that high inventories direct automakers to incentivize excess models that need to be sold.
Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst at Edmunds.com, said hefty incentives and lease subsidies on the Chevrolet Malibu might also have redirected buyers who were considering the Cruze to that model instead.
Sandwiched between the redesigned compact Chevrolet Sonic and a redesigned midsized 2013 Malibu, introduced in 2012, the small Cruze might have been overshadowed by those models last month, Krebs said.
She added that a 3 percent decrease in sales is nothing considerable and doesn’t signal a downward trend for the model in coming months.
Nationwide, auto sales are expected to grow in 2013. Toprak said Truecar is estimating that 15.5 million units will be sold this year, compared with the 14.5 million sold in 2012.