Automakers report strong sales; Cruze numbers slip

Staff, wire reports

Fleet sales of the Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze slipped in January, dropping the small car’s sales numbers by 3.5 percent compared to January 2012, the first decline since July.

The dip came despite a double-digit increase of 10 percent in Cruze retail sales, General Motors officials said during the monthly sales conference call Friday morning when they reported on January sales.

GM boasted overall U.S. sales increases of nearly 16 percent last month, selling 194,699 autos, compared to 167,962 a year ago. At Ford, January’s sales growth was led by the newly redesigned Fusion midsize car, which saw a 65 percent increase. Explorer SUV sales rose 46 percent. Sales of the

F-Series pickup truck, the top-selling vehicle in the U.S., rose 22 percent.

GM officials expressed little concern over the decline in Cruze fleet sales, calling it ”just a function of timing.”

James R. Cain, GM manager of financial news said, ”Fleet mix can be volatile from month to month depending on the ordering patterns of a few large buyers.”

Still, the Cruze remained GM’s second highest-selling car with buyers taking delivery of 14,524, second only to the Malibu and behind GM’s Equinox crossover and Silverado pickup truck.

”Cruze and Malibu will continue to be important to the Chevy lineup,” said Don Johnson, U.S. vice president of Chevrolet sales and service. He also noted small, mini and compact cars comprised more than 25,000 sales for an increase of 18 percent.

The unusually strong January sales carried through most auto manufacturers reporting January sales Friday, an indication that American consumers ignored tax increases and tromped through the winter chill to buy new vehicles.

Analysts said it will likely be the best January in five years once all automakers report. Sales at Toyota rose 27 percent, and they were up 22 percent at Ford. Like GM, Chrysler reported a 16 percent gain compared with a year earlier.