Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Consider the Lesson Learned

This time we were ready. As predicted, April car sales were up on year-to-year numbers, driven on the strength of fuel-efficient models. Look at the Big Three go:

Chevy CruzeOf the American car markers, GM reported the largest sales increase, selling 232,538 vehicles in April. That's up 26.4 percent over the same month a year ago, the company said. Sales of fuel-efficient cars and crossovers helped lead the sales growth. Chevrolet sold 25,160 Cruzes in April -- its best sales month since the car's launch last fall.

Chrysler Group LLC sold 117,225 cars and trucks last month, up 22 percent over the same month a year ago.

Ford's sales climbed 16.4 percent to 189,778 vehicles in April; car sales were up 26 percent led by gains by the all-new Focus and Fiesta.

"Higher gas prices are a call to action," said Ford analyst George Pipas. "If you were thinking about trading, higher gas prices introduces an imperative into the consumer psychology."

Interesting statistic along that line: "Four-cylinder models account for 39 percent of GM sales today, compared to 27 percent a year ago." That ought to tell you something right there.

Overall the industry is still on pace to sell around 13 million vehicles this year, even with the earthquake related shortages. Toyota and Honda suffered the most, posting single-digit sales gains, but others have picked up the slack - notably Hyundai, with a whopping 40% jump in sales. The compact Elantra and midsize Sonata led the way, and thirty-four percent of cars sold by Hyundai had 40 mpg ratings.

Trucks are still doing well, with Ford seeing an increase in the popular F-series once again. Businesses have driven fleet sales, up 31%, while overall retail sales rose 10%.

Can this keep up? As reported yesterday, sales did dive towards the end of the month, making May the real test in the face of record gas prices. But for now, it's obvious that the domestic automakers have learned the lesson on small cars and fuel economy - and that is something to be applauded.

We've truly turned the corner. WTG people - keep up the good work.