GM sales down in first quarter amid tight supply, high prices

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. on Friday said its dealers sold 512,846 vehicles in the first quarter this year, down 20% from last year as slumping supply continued to limit sales.

Again, Toyota Motor North America surpassed GM's sales with a total of 514,592 sales reported in the first quarter for a 14.7% year-over-year decline. Last year, Toyota dethroned GM as America's top-selling automaker. The Japanese automaker outsold GM by more than 114,000 vehicles in 2021, with more than 2.3 million vehicles sold for the year. GM sold 2.2 million vehicles in 2021, dropping 13% from 2020 as the automaker battled a chip shortage that crunched inventory levels on dealer lots.

Automakers for more than a year now have been trying to make new product amid supply shortages, especially of semiconductors or microchips, that have cost valuable production time. Meanwhile, demand for new vehicles hasn't slowed, though inflation and rising gas prices could change that. 

Analysts at Inc., a car information website, said the average monthly payment for new vehicles purchased in the first quarter is expected to climb to $648 — the highest level that Edmunds has on record. The fourth quarter 2021 average was $639. The average monthly payment for used vehicles is also expected to break a record at $538, up from  $524 in the fourth quarter. 

“Shrunken inventory continues to wreak havoc on both the new and used vehicle markets, and shoppers who can actually get their hands on a vehicle are committing to never-before-seen average payments and loan terms,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of insights, in a statement.

Though the automaker saw its sales decline, GM noted Friday that an improved semiconductor supply drove the company to see "significant" year-over-year market share gains in truck segments. GM says that more than 40% of U.S. retail customers in the full-size pickup market bought Chevrolet and GMC trucks last quarter and its full-size SUV retail share was near 70%.

“Our ability to meet pent-up demand improved dramatically thanks to a tremendous effort by our supply chain and manufacturing teams to keep our plants operating at close to normal levels,” said Steve Carlisle, executive vice president and president, GM North America. in a statement. “Supply chain disruptions are not fully behind us, but we expect to continue outperforming 2021 production levels, especially in the second half of the year.”

Kia America's sales in the first quarter dropped 5% year over year. Hyundai Motor America's sales declined 4%, but the automaker noted its first quarter retail sales, or sales to consumers, increased 1.4% over 2021 hitting a record 157,470 vehicles sold.

“The first quarter was an all-time retail sales record for Hyundai as we focused on meeting the tremendous consumer demand despite ongoing inventory challenges,” said Randy Parker, senior vice president, national sales, Hyundai Motor America, in a statement.

Ford Motor Co. will report its sales April 4.