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GM's SUV numbers continue to tumble

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JAMES P. LEUTE
January 6, 2009
— While General Motors officials talked up their overall sales performance for December, the full-size sport utility numbers released Monday seem to put an exclamation point on automaker's decision to end production in Janesville.

GM said Monday it sold 211,104 Chevrolet Suburbans and Tahoes and GMC Yukon XLs and Yukons in 2008, down nearly 38 percent from 2007 and a whopping 58 percent from 2001, when GM delivered more than 505,000 of the big SUVs.


For the most part, the four models have been built at GM plants in Janesville and Arlington, Texas.


The sales decline followed rising gas prices and a consumer exodus to small, more fuel-efficient vehicles. It also triggered GM's announcement earlier this year that it would end production in Janesville in December, leaving the Arlington plant as the sole producer of the GM's big SUVs.


The Arlington plant and its 2,300 hourly workers also build the Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV. As a result of slow sales, GM extended the typical two-week holiday shutdown by an additional two weeks and will not restart production in Texas until Jan. 20


For 2008, Suburban sales were down 35 percent, while Tahoe deliveries dropped 37 percent. Yukon XL sales were off by 42 percent, and Yukon sales were down 38 percent.


For the year, GM delivered nearly 3 million vehicles while maintaining an expected market share just above 22 percent.


Last year's total sales were down 23 percent compared with 2007, which GM officials attributed to an economic downturn, sagging consumer confidence and a tightening in consumer credit markets.


GM officials, however, did take encouragement from December salesódown 31 percent from December 2007 but 43 percent ahead of those posted in November 2008.


"Given the ongoing challenges and the difficult market environment, we were very encouraged to see a volume rebound for GM in December compared with both October and November," said Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president of North America sales.


"We are building more vehicles than ever that provide great value and Americans enjoy owning. That is why, for the year, we are seeing our market share holding steady at just above 22 percent. That's 5 percentage points more and 760,000 vehicles more than our nearest competitor."



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