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GM's SUV sales rose in August

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JAMES P. LEUTE
September 4, 2008
— While General Motors said Wednesday that the full-size sport utility vehicles built in Janesville had their best sales performance of the year in August, the segment continues to show declines.

GM said that sales of Chevrolet Suburban, Tahoe and GMC Yukon XL and Yukon full-size utilities were up 33 percent compared to July, spurred in large part by the automaker's "Employee Discount for Everyone" promotion.


GM said Wednesday that it is extending the sale through the end of September.


But in the month-to-month comparisons GM typically uses as a benchmark of performance, last month was worse than August 2007.


Suburban sales were down 34.1 percent, while Tahoe sales were down 10.2 percent. Yukon XL deliveries for the month were down 47.9 percent, and Yukon sales dropped 17.8 percent.


On a calendar-year-to-date basis, Suburban sales are down 32.1 percent, while Tahoe deliveries are off 25.7 percent. Yukon XL sales have dropped by 40.6 percent, and Yukon sales are down 31.1 percent.


"With the recent moderation in fuel prices, we're seeing some relaxation of pent-up demand in pickups and utilities," said Mark LaNeve, vice president, GM North America Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing. "Our August sales of these segment-leading trucks and utilities has been the best in nearly a year, and August marked the fourth consecutive month that truck sales as a percentage of GM and industry sales increased."


For the August-to-August comparison, GM's total sales were down 20 percent, but last month's numbers were 31 percent better than July's, LaNeve said.


The August and year-to-date sales numbers continue the trend of generally falling sales of big, non-hybrid SUVs, a trend fueled by rising gas prices and a shift in consumer demand from trucks to cars and crossovers.


In response to changing consumer preferences, GM announced in June that it will cease production at its Janesville plant by the end of 2010 at the latest.


GM workers are in the third week of a three-week stretch of non-production. The current downtime comes ahead of two more weeks of layoffs scheduled for late September and early November.


GM has said it still plans another five weeks of non-production in Janesville, which would effectively shutter the plant for November and December.


LaNeve said GM has aggressively managed inventories to low levels. In August, only about 736,000 vehicles were in stock, the lowest August level since 1998. That August inventory, which is 22 percent lower than in August 2007, includes 256,000 cars and 480,000 trucks.


Ford said Wednesday its U.S. sales fell 26.5 percent in August, while Toyota's sales dropped 9.4 percent. Nissan—the only major automaker to show a sales gain in July—reported another improvement, with a 13.6 percent increase in August sales.


—Material from Janesville Gazette wire services was used in this story

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