Autos

GM's Sales Speed Up, Even With Millions of Recalls in Tow


Welding Chevrolet Sonics and Buick Veranos at GM's assembly plant in Lake Orion, Mich.

Photograph by Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg

Welding Chevrolet Sonics and Buick Veranos at GM's assembly plant in Lake Orion, Mich.

General Motors’ (GM) sales staff is just as busy as the mechanics and attorneys rushing to patch up the company’s widening recall scandals. The automaker sold almost 285,000 vehicles in the U.S. last month, a 13 percent increase over the year-earlier period—and stronger sales than in any May since 2007.

Analysts had expected far more humdrum results while GM grapples with the recall of almost 14 million vehicles so far this year, including 2.4 million tied to fatalities and a rash of lawsuits. ”The momentum we generated in April carried into May, with all four brands performing well in a growing economy,” Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. vice president of sales, said in a statement.

Chevrolet fueled most of the growth with a 14 percent boost in sales, followed by Buick’s 11 percent jump.

The rosy update arrived just minutes after a Reuters report attributing additional fatalities to faulty GM ignition switches, making for a death toll that might be almost six times larger than investigators—and safety regulators—have mentioned to date. In an analysis of a massive federal database of crash data, Reuters discovered 74 deaths in GM cars with keys similar to those cited in current recalls.

Current car shoppers, however, still don’t seem fazed. Bloomberg analyst Kevin Tynan said GM’s 2009 bankruptcy makes it “very easy” for consumers to ignore reliability issues on earlier models.

Nor are GM’s bullish results an anomaly in the sector. Fiat’s (F:IM) Chrysler, citing a strengthening economy, said it sold 17 percent more vehicles in May than a year earlier—194,421 models in all. Ford (F) managed a 3 percent increase over sales in May 2013, with 253,346 vehicles rolling off its lots last month.

Kyle-stock-190
Stock is an associate editor for Businessweek.com. Twitter: @kylestock

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