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GM Says the New Silverado Is Doing Better Than You Think

By John Rosevear – Mar 8, 2014 at 7:32PM

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Sales were down again in February -- but that's not the whole story, says GM.

Sales of the 2014 Chevy Silverado were down again in February. Photo credit: General Motors Co.

At first glance, it was a rough month for General Motors (GM -4.37%) and its all-new pickup trucks. 

GM's U.S. sales were down 1% last month, as harsh winter weather in many parts of the country kept buyers away from car dealers. That's not so bad: Rivals Ford (F -2.86%) and Toyota (TM -1.34%) posted bigger declines.

But here's the rough part: Sales of Chevy pickups were down 12%. The 2014 Chevy Silverado, an all-new model introduced last year, has been praised by critics -- but both Ford and Chrysler saw pickup sales rise in February. That's leading some analysts to whisper that GM's new pickups are failures.

But are they? GM says the story isn't so bad, and they make a solid case. Meanwhile, some of GM's other recent models are actually doing quite well. In this short video, Fool contributor John Rosevear digs into the numbers -- and concludes that GM's new pickups, and GM as a whole, are doing better than you might think. 

A transcript of the video is below.

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John Rosevear: Hey, Fools, it's John Rosevear. Like most of the other big automakers, GM had a tough month for U.S. sales in February. GM said this past week that its U.S. sales were down 1% last month, as tough winter weather kept buyers away from dealers. That's actually a little better than most analysts expected. Both Ford and Toyota saw bigger sales drops last month.

GM said that its big ad blitz during the Winter Olympics helped push some sales, and that things picked up a bit as the weather in some parts of the country improved toward the end of the month. GM saw good sales of cars and crossovers, but once again, its new pickups had a tough time. Chevy Silverado sales were down 12%. That drop continues to raise questions about the success, or lack of success, of the all-new Silverado that was introduced last year.

But GM says that drop isn't the whole story. That number rolls together both Silverado 1500s as well as Chevy's heavy-duty pickups. The heavy-duties weren't all new last year, they'll be replaced later this year. GM says that if you look just at light-duty pickups and retail sales, its market share actually went up 2 percentage points in February. GM also says that its average transaction prices have been very strong, and that more than half of its light-duty pickups -- that's the Silverado 1500 along with the GMC Sierra 1500 -- more than half of those are "premium" models with higher profit margins.

GM did admit that its incentives rose a bit in February, but they said that's mostly because they're selling down the last of those old heavy-duty pickups as well as the last of the big SUVs, the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban and GMC Yukons are in the process of being replaced with the all-new models and dealers are selling off the last of the old ones.

So we continue to keep a sharp eye on GM's less-than-impressive-looking pickup sales, but it's important to note that GM is having some good success in other key parts of the market. Compact and midsize car sales were down at Ford, but not at Chevrolet. Sales of the Sonic and the Cruze and the Malibu were all up by double-digit percentages. At the higher end of the market, overall sales of the new Cadillac CTS were down a bit versus last year's sales of the old version, but GM said that retail sales were up 7%, and they estimate that its market share was up by 1.6 points, which is strong for Cadillac.

GM also said that commercial fleet sales were up for the fourth month in a row, and are up 8% year to date. Now, I know that some folks get worried about fleet sales, but commercial sales are the good ones. This is sales of things like big batches of trucks to contractors. This is good profitable business, business that Ford and GM compete hard for -- we're not talking about dumping cars on rental fleets here.

So, all in all, when you dig into the numbers, it was a decent month for GM in comparison to what some of its competitors put up, and I think the doom and gloom around GM's truck sales might be a bit premature. We'll see how things look once the weather improves, though. Thanks for watching, and Fool on.

John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford. It also recommends General Motors. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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