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General Motors reported on Tuesday that sales rose 11.5% last month compared to a year ago. It also said sales rose by an even greater percentage after factoring out the four brands that GM has since jettisoned as part of its emergence from bankruptcy reorganization.

Excluding Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn and Saab, the Detroit-based automaker reported total sales rose 32% compared to February 2009. GM sold 138,849 cars last month on "continued strong" sales growth of crossover vehicles and passenger cars, it said. At the retail level, sales at GM's remaining four "core" brands -- Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac -- rose 7% last month, thanks to strong consumer demand the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Cadillac SRX crossovers, the company said.

"Although we've been operating as a new company with four brands for just seven months, our February results demonstrate that our long-term plan is already paying dividends," said Susan Docherty, GM vice president for sales and marketing.

However, winter weather didn't cooperate. GM said industry sales could have been about 5% higher if not for February's massive snowstorms. The carmaker released its sales figures earlier than usual on Tuesday, ahead of Ford Motor (F), which is usually the first large automaker to report monthly U.S. sales.

Cobalts Join the Recall Parade


GM made a separate announcement earlier in the day: It's recalling 1.3 million cars due to steering problems in its venerable Chevrolet Cobalt compact car and other similar models sold in North America. The defect became the subject of discussion at hearings last week in Washington concerning the massive recalls of Toyota vehicles for unintended acceleration problems. Lawmaker asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood if GM, which is majority-owned by the federal government, was being treated differently than Toyota when it came to recalling cars for safety issues.

With more than 1,100 complaints involving steering issues in Cobalt models, lawmakers wanted to know if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was looking into the matter with less vigor than it has pursued problems in Toyota vehicles.
LaHood said that wasn't the case, and that NHTSA was investigating.

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