Why Did General Motors Report Such a Significant August 2017 Sales Gain as the Industry Slowdown Continued?


New crossovers.

New crossovers in the biggest crossover segments.

General Motors reported a 7-percent year-over-year U.S. sales improvement in August 2017 — in stark contrast to GM’s declines in four preceding months — as the U.S. auto industry reported its eighth consecutive sales decline.

Don’t thank GM’s cars, sales of which tumbled by more than a tenth. Pickup-truck sales edged up only slightly, rising less than 3 percent compared with August 2016. But crossovers — especially newly launched crossovers, especially newly launched crossovers in America’s largest utility vehicle segments — produced massive U.S. sales improvements for GM in August 2017.

How massive? Apart from the Chevrolet Equinox, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Terrain, and GMC Acadia, General Motors’ U.S. sales were down 2 percent last month.

Thanks to a 63-percent year-over-year jump in Equinox, Traverse, Acadia, and Terrain volume — boosted not only by the arrival of all-new models but by the clear-out of prior-generation models — GM added nearly 27,000 crossover sales in August 2017, year-over-year. Those four aforementioned new models grew their collective volume by 22,504 units.

GMC’s Acadia and Terrain volume was half again as strong as it was last year at this time. Equinox volume shot up 85 percent, a gain of nearly 13,000 sales. The Chevrolet Traverse was up 35 percent to 11,337 units, its best month in more than a year.

They weren’t the only GM crossovers to make gains, of course. The Cadillac XT5 reported its best month of the year. Buick Envision sales rose 78 percent. The Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore jointly added more than 3,000 extra sales to the ledger.These massive gains helped GM cut its inventory to an 88-day supply at the end of August, down from 104 days at the beginning of August, as GM works its way to achieving its year-end goal of 70 days’ supply by the end of the year. It wasn’t all a fleet play, either, as 93 percent of GM crossover sales occurred on the retail side, up from 91 percent a year ago. On a retail basis, in fact, GM says August 2017 was the Traverse’s best month ever.

Overall, GM incentives grew 8 percent, year-over-year, and 6 percent compared with July, rising to $4,546 per vehicle, or roughly 13 percent of the average transaction price. ALG says that was marginally less incentivization than Ford Motor Company and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles utilized in August.

In the context of the competition, the Chevrolet Equinox was America’s fourth-best-selling utility vehicle in August, ahead of the Ford Escape and behind only the Nissan Rogue (Rogue Sport included), Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4, which set its own record with 43,265 sales. The Chevrolet Traverse ranked 16th among SUVs/crossovers, the GMC Acadia 23rd, and the GMC Terrain 25th. Crossovers accounted for 32 percent of GM’s August 2017 sales, up from 24 percent a year earlier.

[Images: General Motors; Chart: © The Truth About Cars]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.


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