Automakers reported new U.S. light-vehicle sales on May 1 that continued to show a recovery, but the seasonally adjusted annualized selling rate, or SAAR, declined from March. The SAAR according to Automotive News was 14.9 million compared with 14.1 million in April 2012 and 15.25 million in March 2013.
Full-size pickups continue to far outperform the industry, and we expect that to continue throughout the year. Ford Motor Company’s F F-Series truck grew sales 24% in April year over year, is up 19% for the year, and had its best April since 2006. General Motors’ GM large pickups rose 23% year over year in April, and for the year the company estimates its retail share of the segment is up over 1 percentage point compared with this time last year.
GM’s overall April sales grew 11.4% from April 2012 while retail sales grew 9.9%. It was GM’s best April in five years. Fleet made up 28% of volume compared with about 27% in April 2012. All four brands posted respectable increases, with Cadillac up an impressive 24.5% in the retail channel and 34.3% overall. The brand is up 37% for the year, the fastest growth rate in the industry per GM, but the growth is entirely from new models.
We calculate that Cadillac’s April sales excluding new and discontinued models declined by 22.3%, mostly due to a 43% decline in CTS sales and a 13% fall in the SRX crossover. Cadillac will release a newgeneration midsize CTS in the fall that should boost volume, while the SRX is getting older and up against a tough comparable after selling well since its release in summer 2009. GM’s car and crossovers also performed well, with double-digit increases in the Chevrolet Cruze and other models driving a 31% increase in mini, small, and compact cars. Chevrolet crossovers posted their best-ever sales on a year-to-date basis.
GM also announced that its long-awaited and long-overdue next-generation full-size Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 pickup trucks (2014 model year) will go on sale this summer. The crew cab versions will go on sale first, as announced on April 1, and this variant is 50% of Silverado sales and 60% of Sierra sales. GM expects a more aggressive crew cab push and market demand to increase the penetration to at least 60% for Silverado and over 65% for Sierra. For calendar 2013, GM announced on the call today that it is targeting 50% of its full-size pickup production to be 2014 model year but only 25% of sales, which likely reflects time needed to burn off 2013 model year inventory.
Nissan made news on sales day by announcing that effective May 3 it is cutting prices by between $580 to $4,400 on seven models, about two-thirds of the brand’s U. S. volume, including the Altima midsize sedan and Murano crossover. Nissan management claims these moves are not related to recent weakening of the yen against the dollar. Management said it needed to reduce prices in order to have its vehicles more comparably priced in the market for consumers searching the internet by price. GM and Ford management seem much more concerned with producing to meet demand and pricing to make a profit than to chase market share, which is what they should say.
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