Cruze sees best sales month yet

Chevy Cruze hit an all-time sales high last month when 32,871 American new-car buyers took delivery of the Lordstown-built small car.

The sales meant an increase of a whopping 73 percent over June 2012, shattering the old monthly sales record of 25,975 set last August.

“Tremendous staying power” is how General Motors’ vice president for U.S. sales operations Kurt McNeil described the car during Tuesday’s monthly corporate sales conference call. He also noted that combined sales of GM’s mini, small and compact car sector, which include Cruze, were up 59 percent over June 2012.

Cruze June sales were second only in the GM lineup to the 43,259 Silverado pickup trucks sold.

Continuing demand for big pickups helped boost GM’s overall sales by 6.5 percent over a year ago. The other Detroit automakers also reported good sales, with Ford up 14 percent and Chrysler up 8 percent.

GM Lordstown’s United Auto Workers Local 1112 president Glenn Johnson called the new Cruze sales record “fantastic.”

“With the J.D. Power report, and now this, it’s giving people a reason to check it out and the opportunity to get behind the wheel,” he said.

Johnson was referring to last month’s “J.D. Power 2013 Initial Quality Study” that ranked General Motors’ cars among the best for new car satisfaction.

Year to date, 133,689 Cruzes have been sold nationwide, up 17 percent over last year’s sales of 113,884 January to June. And more than 2 million units of the hot-selling Cruze have been sold globally, said Alan Batey, GM’s senior vice president of global Chevrolet.

Manufacture of the Cruze at the Lordstown complex has remained steady for three shifts, without a need for overtime production. Starting this week, the Lordstown complex is on its routine two-week summer shutdown. Glenn Johnson said when workers left Friday, Cruze supplies were at an optimum 60-day supply, considered just the right amount of inventory to provide dealers a good selection while not overstocking inefficiently.

Of the 32,871 Cruzes sold in June, about 200 were the new Lordstown-built Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesels, said Don Johnson, GM’s U.S. vice president of Chevrolet sales operations. The 2014 model only began hitting showrooms in select cities nationwide in May and June.

“It’s just starting to get out into the dealer lots,” Don Johnson said, noting that he feels good about anecdotal stories that new owners are getting real-world gas mileage surpassing 50 mpg. Cruze Diesel’s fuel economy is rated at 46 mpg.

Ramp up of Cruze diesel production is ongoing, Glenn Johnson said.

In other industry auto sales reported Tuesday, sales for Jeep remained flat. The company may have been squeezed by Chrysler’s public flap with the government last month over the safety of some older-model Jeeps. Sales for Chrysler and Fiat brands both rose 1 percent.

Japanese automakers showed solid gains. Nissan’s sales jumped 13 percent, while Toyota was up 10 percent. But Volkswagen’s sales dropped 3 percent, the third straight monthly decline for the German car company.

Analysts say they don’t see much that could slow the sales momentum of the first six months. The factors that juiced sales – low interest rates, wider credit availability, rising home construction and hot new vehicles – are likely to remain in place. So far, hiccups in the stock market, higher taxes and fluctuating gas prices haven’t dampened demand.

Consumer confidence hit a six-year high in June. And the Standard & Poor’s 500 index had its best first half since 1998, up 12.6 percent. At the same time, auto loan rates remained near historic lows in June.

Associated Press auto writer Dee-Ann Durbin contributed to this story.