Sales of the Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze continued a strong second half of 2012 with December purchases up 27 percent compared with the previous year.
There were 21,230 Cruzes sold in December — a sizable increase from 16,675 last December. This is the second-consecutive month that purchases of the vehicle were up by 27 percent compared with the prior year.
For the year, sales of the Cruze increased by 2.6 percent compared with 2011, according to GM sales figures. A total of 237,758 were sold in 2012, and 231,732 were purchased in 2011.
Before August, Cruze purchases had lagged behind 2011 figures. The vehicle then began a six-month string of double-digit sales increases compared with the previous year.
The Cruze is the vehicle that kicked off General Motors’ ability to compete with the Asian automakers in the small-car segment, said Kristen Andersson, senior analyst for Truecar.com, an automotive information website.
“People don’t have to get a Toyota or a Honda anymore if they’re looking for a fuel-efficient vehicle,” she said.
High fuel costs combined with better small-car options also have contributed to the popularity of these smaller vehicles for consumers, Andersson said.
“These small cars aren’t simply the economy models they used to be,” she said. “Some of them have the same types of features there are in luxury cars.”
The 3 percent growth in sales for the Cruze was solid considering the first half of the year, Andersson said.
The strong month for the Cruze was part of GM’s best December sales in five years, according to GM figures.
Increased sales numbers for GM and the Cruze were consistent throughout the auto industry, said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst for Edmunds, an automotive information website. GM did not experience the same level of sales increases as its competitors.
“In a strong year for the auto industry overall, GM struggled to hold up its end in 2012. Its year-over-year growth is well under the industry average, and the company couldn’t hold on to market share gains it enjoyed in 2011,” she said.
It does not appear the next two months will be as positive for vehicle purchases, Caldwell said.
“The strong sales in November and December could pull some sales away from January and February,” she said.
As part of its release of information Friday, GM touted the sales of its more fuel-efficient vehicles. GM stated it is the first U.S. automaker to sell more than 1 million vehicles in its home market in a single year that get an estimated 30 miles per gallon or better.
“Our investments in advanced powertrains are clearly paying off, and our smaller vehicles are resonating with customers,” said Mark Reuss, president of GM North America in a statement. “In 2013, we’ll introduce new diesel, eAssist and plug-in vehicles in the United States and expand the availability of turbocharged four-cylinder engines. This will give us the most technologically diverse range of fuel-efficient cars and crossovers in the industry.”
Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations, mentioned the diesel Cruze as one of the new technologies GM will release in 2013.
There are no forecasts at this point to estimate what the impact of the Cruze diesel will be, Andersson said.
“I think it has the potential to be the type of vehicle consumers will appreciate,” she said.
The Cruze diesel has the opportunity to generate loyal consumers just like Volkswagen has with its diesel vehicles, Andersson said.