Cruze sees small sales increase

LORDSTOWN — U.S. sales of the locally made Chevrolet Cruze rose slightly last month despite reports of a market shift toward larger vehicles and a series of supply issues that have impacted production of the popular sedan.

General Motors said Thursday that 16,414 units of the Cruze were sold in November, an increase of 2.1 percent from the 16,073 delivered the same month in 2015.

The top-selling small sedan, produced at the GM Assembly Plant in Lordstown, stalled in July when sales dropped 36 percent. However, since then, year-over-year comparisons have reflected increases of 52.4 percent in August, 8.4 percent in September and 9 percent in October.

The vehicle, which claimed GM’s second spot for sales in August, continued struggling in its year-to-date numbers, falling 18.2 percent in the first 11 months with 171,552 deliveries compared to 209,753 in 2015.

The Cruze’s second generation went into production at Lordstown earlier this year and the plant recently started rolling out test models of  a diesel version of the 2017 sedan expected to be unveiled next year. However, early last month GM said third shifts at Lordstown and its Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant in Michigan will be cut in January as demand has shifted from smaller cars to trucks and SUVs. The move will cost approximately 1,245 jobs at Lordstown and about 840 in Michigan.

Production halts have impacted local GM workers, many of whom are represented by United Auto Workers local 1112 and 1714, several times this year. Production was idled part of a shift one day and for two shifts a second day in late October because of a supply issue. However, specific information about the matter was not disclosed.

In August, production was disrupted after a contract dispute arose between GM and one of its suppliers, suspending shipments of the 2017 Chevrolet Cruzes that went into production at the local plant earlier this year.

At the time, plant leaders said the Saturday shifts that were cut had been added as needed to meet customer demand.

Before that, vehicle assembly at the several North American plants, including Lordstown, was halted for a couple weeks in late April and early May because of supply chain interruptions caused by an earthquake in Japan.

The Cruze, GM’s best-selling compact car, is sold in 115 countries. More than 3.5 million units of the popular small car have been sold around the world since 2008, and more than 1.25 million of those have been made in Lordstown, where some 4,500 workers are employed, since the car launched here in 2010.

Last month, the Cruze slipped to fifth place on the Detroit automaker’s sales chart, where it had been in September, after holding the No. 3 spot in October.

The company’s top-selling vehicle remained the Chevy Silverado 1500 with 45,280 deliveries, up 0.6 percent from the 45,001 sold the same month in 2015. Also topping the sales charts were the Chevy Equinox, with 21,600, up 10 percent from 19,634; GMC Sierra, 18,900, up 14.4 percent from 16,527; and Chevy Malibu, 18,577, up 71.8 percent from 10,813.

Overall, GM’s total U.S. sales in November were 252,644 vehicles, up more than 10 percent from last year.  All four brands outperformed the industry in November with Buick, Cadillac and GMC posting double-digit gains.

“GM’s November performance reflects the continued strength of our U.S. business. We gained profitable retail share, commercial and small business deliveries were strong and we commanded the industry’s best average transaction prices,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president, U.S. sales. “We are ahead of plan selling down our 2016 model year inventory and we expect to close out December with more retail share growth. GM is heading into 2017 in a position of strength with the planned launch of key new products, like the all-new Chevrolet Equinox, into the heart of the market.”

The automaker sold 197,609 vehicles in November to individual or retail customers in the United States, up 8 percent from last year. Based on initial estimates, the automaker once again outperformed all full-line manufacturers, led by strong retail sales gains at Chevrolet, 8.1 percent, Buick, 16.1 percent, GMC, 14.1 percent, and Cadillac, 14.5 percent. GM’s November retail sales performance drove GM’s U.S. retail share to its highest November level since 2009, the company reported.

Based on initial estimates, GM’s retail market share jumped 0.3 percentage points in November to 16.8 percent.  GM has gained retail market share in 17 of the past 20 months.

The company said it continues to benefit from a strong U.S. economy and strong retail demand for its products.

Meanwhile, total U.S. sales rose 4 percent for the month to 1.38 million units – making last month the highest November on record, beating the previous record of 1.32 million set in 2001, according to Kelley Blue Book.

For November, automakers said:

• Toyota Motor Corp.’s sales rose 4 percent to 197,645. Luxury Lexus sales were down 1 percent but Toyota brand sales rose 5 percent. Low gas prices hurt sales of cars like the hybrid Prius, which was down 16.5 percent, but helped SUV sales. Toyota Highlander SUV sales jumped 67 percent

• Ford Motor Co.’s sales rose 5 percent to 197,574. Lincoln brand sales were up 19 percent thanks to the new Continental sedan and the redesigned MKX SUV. Sales of Ford’s best-seller, the F-Series pickup, were up 11 percent as the new F-250 and F-350 went on sale.

• Fiat Chrysler’s sales fell 14 percent to 160,827. All brands saw double-digit percentage declines except Ram, which was up 12 percent on strong sales of pickups and the ProMaster commercial van.

• Honda Motor Co.’s sales rose 6.5 percent to 122,924, a November record for the company. Luxury Acura sales dropped 5 percent, but Honda brand sales were up 8 percent. Honda’s best-seller, the Accord sedan, saw sales rise 6 percent.

• Nissan Motor Co.’s sales were up 7.5 percent to 115,136, which was a November record. Nissan brand sales were up 8 percent, helped by strong sales of the newly redesigned Armada full-size SUV. Luxury Infiniti sales were up 4 percent.

• Hyundai Motor Co.’s sales rose 4 percent to 62,507, a November record. Sales of the Sonata and Elantra sedans fell, but the Santa Fe and Tucson SUVs both saw double-digit percentage gains.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.