General Motors Co., armed with its best vehicles in a generation, said worldwide sales rose 3.6 percent during the first quarter compared with last year, keeping its lead over Volkswagen AG by about 90,000 vehicles.
Increased Chevrolet sales in the U.S. and Buick demand in China helped GM deliver 2.36 million cars and trucks in the first three months of 2013, the Detroit-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. VW global sales during the period rose 5.1 percent to 2.27 million, according to an April 12 statement. Toyota Motor Corp. hasn’t reported first-quarter sales yet.
“This is Chevrolet’s 10th consecutive record-breaking quarter of global sales,” Mark Reuss, president of GM’s North American operations, said today in Detroit in advance of the SAE World Congress, an auto-engineering conference, at an industry breakfast held by Dawda Mann, a Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based law firm. “Chevrolet is, in fact, being reborn.”
GM faces increased pressure to maintain its standing as the world’s second-best selling automaker ahead of VW. Toyota retook the lead position from GM last year as the Toyota City, Japan- based company recovered from natural disasters in Asia in 2011.
Volkswagen, based in Wolfsburg, Germany, reported a 5.9 percent sales decline in Europe that was offset by gains in the U.S. and China. The company, with brands including Audi and Porsche, said its U.S. sales rose 15 percent to 142,800 and China deliveries increased 21 percent to 633,900.
“We don’t sit around plotting first place in sales as an objective,” Reuss told reporters after his presentation. “Although, we will go head-to-head market-to-market with the product piece of it.”
GM Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson is pushing to refocus the automaker’s efforts around two global brands, Chevrolet and Cadillac, as the company competes with VW and Toyota for worldwide scale.
Toyota, which introduced 19 new or refreshed vehicles in the U.S. last year, regained the sales lead from GM in 2012, selling 9.75 million vehicles. GM sold 9.29 million vehicles last year, more than half in its two largest markets: 2.6 million in the U.S. and 2.84 million in China.
The U.S. automaker finished No. 2 last year, outselling VW by more than 200,000 deliveries. VW aims to become the world’s biggest by 2018.
GM’s first-quarter sales in the U.S. rose 9.3 percent to 664,963 and GM in China gained 9.6 percent to 816,373, the company previously said. China sales include deliveries with its joint-venture partners.
As head of GM’s North American operations, Reuss is overseeing GM’s effort to bring out about 20 new vehicles in the U.S. this year after its shares of the home market slipped to an 88-year-low in 2012. The Impala full-sized sedan is arriving in showrooms this month and will be followed by a redesigned Silverado pickup.
The company’s revamped Corvette has also been garnering attention after it was revealed in January in Detroit. An early review by Motor Trend in its March 2013 issue said the new Corvette “has it where it counts,” noting that “the radical new bodywork is jet-inspired and race-tested” while the interior has been improved with a cabin that’s been “bathed in soft-touch materials.”
Reuss told reporters that new Chevrolet and GMC mid-size pickups would be revealed this year and go on sale in the U.S. in 2014. GM hasn’t decided yet whether it will use the old Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon names, he said.
The Chevy version will be aimed at taking on the Toyota Tacoma and the GMC version will achieve 95 percent of the duty-cycle of a bigger Sierra full-sized pickup with better fuel efficiency, Reuss told the audience during his presentation.
“We’re going to really target different buyers with these two trucks” than who buys the full-sized pickups, he told reporters. “We’d love to have a truck like a Chevrolet mid-sized truck to go really attract the West Coast with a lifestyle truck that is really beautiful and fun.”
GM gained 1.3 percent to $29.29 at 11:22 a.m. New York time. The shares gained 0.3 percent this year through yesterday, trailing the S&P 500 Index’s 8.8 percent rise. VW had dropped 15 percent, while Toyota, aided by the weakening yen, soared 38 percent through yesterday.
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