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GM sport utilities continue freefall in July

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JAMES P. LEUTE
August 2, 2008
— Sales of General Motors’ full-size sport utilities built in Janesville continued their freefall in July, further evidence that consumers are abandoning big trucks in favor of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and crossovers.

GM dealers in the United States sold 235,184 vehicles in July, down 26.7 percent from July 2007. Car sales were down 12.1 percent while truck deliveries dropped 41.5 percent.


On a calendar-year-to-date basis, Chevrolet Suburban sales are down 31.8 percent, while Chevy Tahoe deliveries are off 27.8 percent. Yukon XL sales have dropped by 39.1 percent, and Yukon sales are down 33.1 percent.


GM released its sales numbers Friday.


In the July-to-July comparison, Suburban sales were down 51.6 percent, while Tahoe sales were down 35.1 percent. Yukon XL deliveries for the month were down 56.2 percent and Yukon sales dropped 40 percent.


“Obviously, the weakness in the truck market persisted in July, yet we continue to hold share due to our fuel economy leadership in many truck segments despite dramatic competitive incentive spending increases,” said Mark LaNeve, vice president, GM North America Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing.


LaNeve said GM had a strong month with its newest products: Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Malibu, Saturn Astra, and Pontiac Vibe and G8.


“In addition, we continued to see strong retail demand for our fuel-efficient Chevrolet Aveo and HHR, Saturn Vue and Buick Enclave,” he said. “So, despite an overall weak market, there are pockets of strength.”


LaNeve said GM continues to see momentum in its hybrid vehicles, particularly the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon 2-mode SUVs that are built at Janesville’s sister plant in Arlington, Texas.


Still, the July and year-to-date sales numbers continue the trend of falling sales of big, non-hybrid SUVs, a trend fueled by rising gas prices and the shift in consumer demand.


The continuing sales numbers seem to affirm GM’s decision to cut production at its Janesville plant. The automaker said earlier this year that it would cut its second shift in Janesville, a decision followed a few weeks later with the announcement that all production in Janesville would end by 2010 at the latest.


The 1,150 hourly and 130 salaried workers at the plant returned to work Monday after a two-week corporate shutdown in early July was extended by two weeks of non-production.


Workers in Janesville have another five weeks of downtime scheduled through early November, with the likelihood of an additional five weeks through the end of the year.


Across the industry, Japan’s Toyota, which has started pulling away from GM in the race to be the world’s top-selling automaker, posted a 12 percent drop in sales in July while Ford saw a 15 percent decline.


As in June, Honda was the bright spot, with its U.S. sales declining just 1.6 percent.


Material from Gazette wire services was used in this story.



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