By Jamison Cocklin
The Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze set an all-time monthly sales record in June, capping the first half of 2013 with a 73 percent increase in year-over-year sales, according to figures released by General Motors Co.
The Cruze was GM’s second-best-selling model across all its brands, behind the Chevrolet Silverado pickup, during a month when U.S. auto sales soared to a height not seen since before the recession.
GM reported Tuesday that it sold 264,843 vehicles in June, up 6 percent from 2012. The Cruze delivered a boost to that figure by selling 32,871 units last month, compared with 18,983 units at the same time last year.
“Our Chevrolet, Buick-GMC and Cadillac dealers reported strong retail deliveries across the board in June and for the first six months of this year,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations at GM. “We have good momentum heading into the second half of 2013. The economic outlook is solid.”
All four GM brands posted higher retail sales last month, with Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac posting double-digit increases.
Combined sales of GM’s mini, small and compact cars were up 59 percent. Large pickups were up 29 percent, luxury-car sales increased 22 percent, and compact crossovers rose 8 percent.
In early June, GM said the Cruze had its best May sales month since it was introduced in 2010. Three years later, the vehicle continues to be a top performer for the company even as it has unveiled new models and redesigned others both inside and outside of the Cruze’s segment.
“GM is giving a lot of car for the money,” said Jesse Toprak, an analyst at the automotive information website TrueCar.com.
Strong financing incentives have helped the Cruze over the years, but “it’s not like they’re giving it away. There are some dealerships giving leases for $99 per month, and those sorts of programs help propel sales,” Toprak said.
The combination of style, size and pricing has made the Cruze a strong competitor and helped bring “style to a [small-car] segment that was lacking” at GM, he added.
“It’s amazing. The steadiness of the car’s sales from its launch all the way through to now — we’ve had our ebbs and flows, pluses and minuses — bodes well for job security at Lordstown and helps the [Mahoning] Valley and the economy here,” said Glenn Johnson, president of the United Auto Workers Local 1112 at Lordstown.
June was a solid month overall for U.S. auto sales.
Analysts say they don’t see much that could slow sales momentum heading into the second half of the year.
The factors that juiced sales — low interest rates, wider credit availability, rising home construction and hot new vehicles — are likely to remain in place. So far, hiccups in the stock market, higher taxes and fluctuating gas prices haven’t dampened demand.
“America’s families are better off than they were at the beginning of the year and they believe — with good justification — that the economic expansion is going to continue,” said Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s chief economist. “Even moderate economic growth will be enough to keep the auto-sales rate in the second half of the year at healthy levels around the mid-15 million unit mark.”
U.S. auto sales rose 6 percent to 8 percent in June compared with the same month last year. Analysts at TrueCar.com predict that dealers sold cars and trucks at an annualized rate of 15.7 million last month, the best rate since December 2007.
Continuing demand for big pickups helped boost sales for Detroit’s other automakers. Ford said its sales rose 14 percent, while Chrysler’s gained 8 percent in June.
Japanese automakers reported solid gains as well. Nissan’s sales jumped 13 percent, while Toyota’s were up 10 percent. But Volkswagen’s sales dropped 3 percent, the third straight monthly decline for the German car company.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.