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GM pushes for buzz, but market share fizzles

Posted by: David Welch on April 01, 2010


They came one after the other over the course of about 15 minutes, four press releases teasing us with big sales gains made by General Motors. First, a press release at 9:54 a.m. today saying that Chevrolet sales were up a whopping 41 percent. GM offered no more detail. We’d have to wait until 10:45 to get the goods. Two minutes later, Buick is up 76 percent, said the release. Then it’s GMC up 45% and finally Cadillac up 42 percent. It was a cunning move since GM knows that in news cycles where the delivery of data bits and sound bites is measured in seconds, the wires would simply post those headlines and get the details later. They dutifully did just that.

So for about an hour this morning, GM had some juicy headlines out on the news wires boasting whopping sales gains for its four remaining brands. Looks like a good month, right? Well, when the details finally emerged it wasn’t such a great month after all. Remember, this time last year the economy was reeling from the financial crisis. The car market was at historic lows and GM was gliding straight toward bankruptcy court. So March 2009 is an easy comparison for the writers of press releases.

Once we could dig into the numbers and ask some questions, GM didn’t exactly hit the cover off the ball. Marketing Vice President Susan Docherty said that sales to corporate and rental fleets were up 64 percent. Fleet sales tend to be less profitable since carmakers often sell those car to rental agencies at a discount. Sales to Pontiac, Hummer, Saab and Saturn, which are all being killed off are sold, plummeted and GM hasn’t been able to recoup all of the buyers. The bottom line is that GM’s market share fell to 17.6 percent, down from 18 percent this time last year and well off the 18.7 percent pace the company has set for this year.

The company does have some great new models. The Chevy Equinox, GMC Terrain and Cadillac SRX SUVs are hotter than a two-dollar pistol. So is the Camaro (pictured above) which outsold the rival Ford Mustang 8,900 to 5,900. Even Buick has a hit with its LaCrosse sedan. As fast as those cars are selling, GM needs to get more people to give those four surviving brands a look. Otherwise, Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre’s unofficial target of 20 percent market share by the end of this year will be a mirage. Today’s play was cunning. But it will take more than PR schemes to convince GM’s skeptics that it has turned things around.

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Reader Comments

Arnold J. Harriett

April 4, 2010 07:25 PM

Some people still remember the hurt and injury caused by GM's faulty products and arrogant attitude toward customers.


April 5, 2010 08:00 AM

Isn't Toyota doing the same? Toyota was down just as much last year and are making large claim. Why not make a fair comparison?

mr dave

April 5, 2010 03:02 PM

Maybe because GM, Ford and Chrysler had systematic poor quality, pitiful customer service, and unsympathetic dealerships. Toyota has stumbled but I'll bet this time next year they will again be a sales leader and GM will still be chasing them. GM has changed somethings, and the newest models look nice but it remains to be seen if they will keep it up or fall back into the old routine of to big to fail mentality.


April 5, 2010 03:31 PM

Go Go Government Motors!

Dave M.

April 5, 2010 06:33 PM

Joe is right. Your article would have been much more interesting and fairer if you had at least compared 2008, excluding Pontiac, Saturn, and Hummer, to 2010. Then vs. the competition.


April 5, 2010 07:49 PM

Since the government is in charge and controls the number crunching (and we all know how accurate they calculate) my bet is that as sales fall, the govenment will be pushing out numbers that make things look all good. I just wonder how long they will get away with this before someone has to turn out the last light at the last GM factory? I also wonder how much is going to be added to the national debt because of the government getting into the auto business. Years ago the pols gave out chickens to get people to vote for we may see people being offered new cars to vote for the pols!! I want a VET!!!


April 6, 2010 04:56 AM

more GM 'futureama' BS! GM needs a real Chev type hit that makes tons of profit.
too many models in a very fragmented and competative market does not huge profits make. GM and other Big 2 will be less important in future car market. watch Hyundai go! GM needs a real shake-up!


April 6, 2010 09:03 AM

Why would anyone want to buy anything from a government run company like GM? They'll be lucky to keep their market share above 15% by the end of the year.


April 7, 2010 11:22 AM

Too many bad cars over too many years cost GM my business. Now their cars may be better, but I don't trust them any more. If GM is to survive, I think it needs to concentrate on the niches where its vehicles are successful, and size the company for THAT market share.


April 8, 2010 05:43 AM

GM company does have some new models,this is good looking and comfortable to us.Toyota has stumbled but I'll bet this time next year they will again be a sales leader and GM will still be chasing them.


April 8, 2010 11:37 PM

I would have to agree with sizing GM for what works for them. SUV market, some cars and sedans. Not too many competing models. Of course, a 2010 firebird would be nice too.


April 13, 2010 09:03 AM

I Have owned many G.M. Products and all have been great.If we are to grow as a nation we need to stop buying Hyndai,Nissin,and Toyota


April 13, 2010 09:06 PM

@Joe- Good for you about GM. As for Nissin, they make good noodles. Don't know what Hyndai makes.... But let me try to take your advice... Let me buy a CHEVY Aveo... oops, made in Korea... okay then, a CHEVY Equinox... oops, engine made in China...Gee, where can I get a car with more American(US) made parts than the nation's best selling F-150? TOYOTA AND HONDA! Yes, it's true.. You may want to get your facts straight to help our nation grow...


April 16, 2010 10:43 AM

People here are loving the new Camaro and Equinox, winners of the best interior awards. Love the release method through facebook too.

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Detroit bureau chief David Welch , Dexter Roberts and Ian Rowley bring daily scoop, keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business from around the globe. Read their take on such weighty issues as Detroit’s attempt at a comeback, Toyota’s quest for dominance and the search for an efficient car.

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