General Motors (NYSE:GM) said that its U.S. sales rose 6.3% in the third quarter from a year ago, powered by strong results for its all-new full-size pickups and continued strong demand for crossover SUVs. Year to date through September, GM's U.S. sales are down 0.8%.

GM's third-quarter sales gain outpaced the overall U.S. light-vehicle market, which was roughly flat versus the third quarter of 2018, according to figures from Automotive News. GM also handily outpaced archrival Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), which reported a 4.9% third-quarter sales decline on tight supplies of its new SUVs. 

Here's a look at how GM's third-quarter sales result stacks up against its five largest-selling rivals in the United States. 

Automaker Q3 2019 U.S. Sales Change vs. Q3 2018
General Motors 738,638 6.3%
Toyota Motor 627,194 (9.9%)
Ford Motor  580,251 (4.9%)
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles 565,034 0.1%
Honda Motor 429,214 2.4%
Nissan Motor 327,354 (4.8%)

Data sources: The various automakers mentioned above.

High and low points of GM's third-quarter sales report

The high points:

  • As mentioned above, sales of GM's all-new full-size pickup trucks appear to have finally hit their stride after a long production ramp up. Sales of the light-duty Chevrolet Silverado rose 18%, its upscale GMC Sierra light-duty counterpart rose 38%, and the heavy-duty versions of the Silverado and Sierra were both up by solid single-digit percentages.
  • Cadillac sales rose 7.2% in the third quarter. Sales of all of Cadillac's sedans were down sharply from a year ago, but the declines were more than offset by gains for the brand's crossovers and its big truck-based SUV, the Escalade. 
  • More broadly, most of GM's revamped crossovers continued to post sales gains in the third quarter. Standing out: Chevrolet Traverse (up 25%), the midsize Buick Envision (up 39%), the small Buick Encore (up 18.5% and the brand's bestseller), and the GMC Acadia (up 51%). Sales of GM's bestselling crossover, the compact Chevrolet Equinox, rose 2.3%.
  • Sales of the battery-electric Chevrolet Bolt EV rose 22% from a year ago.

The low points:

  • Aside from the Chevrolet Bolt, most of GM's car models posted double-digit-percentage year-over-year sales declines. Two exceptions: Sales of the midsize Chevrolet Malibu rose 4.5% to 32,432, and sales of the Chevrolet Corvette sports care rose 2.7% to 4,766. An all-new 2020 Corvette is expected to begin arriving at dealers late in the fourth quarter.
  • Sales of GM's midsize pickups are sagging. The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon were down 9.5% and 11.7%, respectively.
A red 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, a light-duty full-size pickup truck, on a road near a lake.

GM's new pickups did their part in the third quarter. Sales of the new Chevrolet Silverado 1500 rose 18%. Image source: General Motors.

The upshot: GM's sales team did its part

After a first half that was hurt by short supplies of the new pickups, this was a good quarter for GM's U.S. sales team. Not only did GM's overall sales gain outpace the market's, but that gain was driven by crossovers and the new full-size pickups, all high-margin products. 

For GM investors looking ahead to third-quarter earnings, the wild card is obviously the ongoing nationwide strike against GM by the United Auto Workers. As of this writing, the strike hasn't ended -- and until it does, we shouldn't expect GM to give us any guidance as to the strike's effect on its bottom line.

There will be a lot to discuss when GM reports earnings on Oct. 29. But at least we know that the sales story in the U.S. was a good one this time around. 

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