General Motors reported Friday that overall vehicle sales in September climbed 10.5% on a year-over-year basis, on strong demand for its new generation of crossover vehicles. Among its four core brands -- Buick, Cadillac, GMC and Chevrolet -- GM sales rose 22% compared to a year ago.
"September's results are a continuation of positive momentum for our four brands and demonstrate that our plan is working," said Don Johnson, vice president of U.S. sales.
The sales results were in-line with analyst expectations, which anticipated a 10.7% rise from September 2009, according to Edmunds.com. Compared to August, sales fell 6.5%, better than the 7.1% decline that Edmunds had forecast.
GM said sales were helped by a quick model-year transition to 2011 models, noting that the change was a "dramatic departure" from last year's changeover. Of GM's retail sales in September, 53% were 2011 model year vehicles-- nearly double last year's 27%. Dealer stock at the end of the month included 75% new model vehicles, compared to just 30% last year.
Sales were driven by strong retail sales, which rose 39% for the month. The company expects that result will outpace the industry, Johnson said during a conference call with investors and the media Friday after sales figures were announced.
The Detroit automaker's remaining four brands have sold nearly 80,000 more units this year than were sold with eight brands through September last year, Johnson said. As part of its post-bankruptcy restructuring GM eliminated or sold off its Pontiac, Hummer, Saab and Saturn brands.
Among its remaining brands, Chevrolet sales rose 18.5% in September compared to a year ago, while those at Cadillac climbed 11.3% and Buick jumped 36.2%. Sales of GMC models gained 41.6%, GM said.
GM also spent less in rebates and other programs designed to boost sales, Johnson said, noting that incentives fell $600 to $3,300 per vehicle in September compared to last year.
Among best sellers for the month were a bevy of so-called crossover vehicles, which combine the attributes of SUVs with car-like handling. Big gainers in the segment included the Chevrolet Equinox, which posted a 70.4% sales rise, while the larger GMC Acadia jumped 62%.
GM was the first out of the gate Friday to report September sales figures. Ford Motor (F), Toyota Motor (TM) and other carmakers will release sales data later in the day.
In related news, GM on Friday closed on its $3.5 billion purchase of AmeriCredit, a provider of subprime auto loans, which will be now known as General Motors Financial.
During Friday's conference call, Johnson said GM will continue to work with Ally Financial, the former GMAC, which finances about a third of GM new-car purchases in the U.S. and Canada.
GM is 61% owned by the federal government as part of the automaker's 2009 government-backed bankruptcy organization. The company emerged from bankruptcy in July 2009 as a much smaller company.
Last month, following two consecutive quarters of profits, the automaker filed paperwork with regulators to once again become a publicly traded company. The first batch of stock is expected to begin selling shortly after the Nov. 2 midterm elections.
At $16 billion, the IPO was at first expected to be the second-largest IPO in U.S. history -- second only to credit-card giant Visa (V). In recent weeks, however, GM officials have sought to tamp down expectations, saying the IPO is likely to raise $8 billion and $10 billion, with shares sold off in chunks rather than one fell swoop.
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