By Kalea Hall
Although the Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze showed an 11 percent decline in sales year-over-year, the compact car still showed up to the plate this March with nearly 24,000 sales.
“[The Chevrolet Cruze] has emerged as a legit competitor in the compact segment,” said Jeremy Acevedo, an analyst for Edmunds.com. “They have had a really strong debut. What GM can do now is refine the product, and doing a lot of little things right can get more customers.”
Cruze sales were 23,598 compared with 26,521 in March 2014.
Overall, GM on Wednesday posted sales of 249,875 vehicles this March over last for a 2 percent drop from last March’s sales. Retail sales dropped 5 percent, while fleet deliveries rose 5 percent from March 2014. Most analysts predicted GM would post sales of 256,000 units during the month, which had one fewer selling day than March 2014.
Crossovers and pickups drove GM sales. Total sales of trucks, including pickups, vans and sport utility vehicles, were up 14 percent; crossover deliveries were up 6 percent.
Specifically, the Chevrolet Equinox saw an increase of 22 percent from 19,939 sold in March 2014 compared with 24,335 last month.
The Cruze was not alone in declining sales compared with last March. The Chevrolet Impala dropped by 31 percent, and the Chevrolet Malibu sales dropped by 12.3 percent.
Glenn Johnson, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112, believes the Cruze has found its market and “it seems like the first Cruze buyers are coming back for another Cruze.”
“[Customers] are still very pleased with the Chevrolet Cruze and with all of the good things that make the Chevrolet Cruze THE Chevrolet Cruze,” he said.
Although the compact-car segment is not trending like the crossovers and trucks, it was still the best-selling segment in March, Acevedo said.
“It is a practical car,” he said. “It is still a very healthy segment.”
Eric Lyman, vice president of industry insights for TrueCar, is interested in seeing how automakers respond to the decrease in passenger-car sales. Lyman said automakers need to “manage the supply relative to the demand and not overproduce.”
“That is when we see incentives coming in and the bad behavior that hurt the industry in the past,” he said.
Greg Greenwood of Greenwood Chevrolet in Austintown said GM is still trying figure who it is on the passenger side of the market. The Cruze has done well, but the Impala has had a difficult time shaking its fleet-car image.
“GM is well-positioned to do what it needs to do with passenger cars, trucks and SUVs,” Greenwood said.
The next-generation Cruze is slated for its debut this year, and with that Lyman expects to see a positive impact.
Across the automotive industry, analysts predicted sales of about 1.52 million for March 2015. Altogether sales posted Wednesday show 1.54 million units sold. This year is expected to be the sixth-consecutive year of growth in the automotive industry.
On Wednesday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles posted a 2 percent increase in sales year-over-year for March with a total of 197,261 units sold. It was the group’s best March since 2007.
Ford Motor Co. posted its best U.S. retail sales in nine years, but fleet sales dropped 13 percent, impacting overall sales. Ford sold 235,929 vehicles, down 3 percent from March 2014.
American Honda Motor Co. reported a 5.3 percent decrease in overall sales. The Honda Division sold 111,623 vehicles in March, a decrease of 5.2 percent for the month. The Acura brand posted sales of 14,670 units, down 5.8 percent over the same period last year.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. reported March 2015 sales of 225,959, an increase of 4.9 percent from March 2014 on a volume basis.