GM’s gross sales rose 3.9% within the first quarter attributable to robust client demand

A customer looks at a General Motors Co. Chevrolet vehicle on sale at a Colma, Calif. Car dealership on Monday, February 8, 2021.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

DETROIT – General Motors’ vehicle sales were driven by strong consumer demand in the first quarter as fleet sales cratered and a persistent shortage of semiconductor chips shut down some assembly plants.

The Detroit-based automaker announced Thursday that it had sold 642,250 vehicles in the first three months of the year, up 3.9% year over year when Covid-19 began forcing dealerships and auto plants to close in March .

GM and the majority of the other major automakers in the US are expected to report first-quarter sales on Thursday. Analysts expect sales across the industry to grow 8% or 9% compared to the first quarter of 2020, despite automakers being hit by a shortage of semiconductor chips.

According to GM, retail sales to individual consumers rose 19% in the first quarter, while fleet sales to corporate and government customers declined 35% year over year. The automaker expects consumer demand to remain stable this year.

“Consumer confidence and spending will continue to rise due to incentives, rising vaccination rates and the gradual reopening of the economy,” said Elaine Buckberg, GM’s chief economist, in a press release. “Demand for automobiles should remain strong all year round.”

GM’s Buick, Cadillac, and GMC brands saw double-digit sales increases in the first quarter, while Chevrolet – the largest brand – fell 1.7%. Chevrolet’s decline was due to a 12.5% ​​decline in sales of Silverado vans.

Hyundai’s record month

Automakers, traditionally less reliant on US fleet sales, posted larger gains than GM in the first quarter. These include: Volkswagen, up 21%; Toyota Motor, up 21.6%; Hyundai Motor, up 28%; and Kia Motors by 22.8%.

Hyundai’s sales were particularly impressive. For the quarter, the South Korean automaker’s results relied on a 38% increase in retail sales, including the best monthly retail and total sales ever in March.

“We had a great month. I mean, almost unexpected all-time records,” said Jose Munoz, CEO of Hyundai North America, on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” on Thursday. “I have to be optimistic, but there are a lot of challenges in the automotive industry these days.”

Ford, America’s second largest automaker after GM in the US, won’t report its first-quarter domestic sales until Monday.

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