Published: Thursday, January 5, 2006
Cobalt ranks second in sales
Chevrolet has returned as the best-selling brand in the U.S. automobile market.
The Chevrolet Cobalt finished 2005 as General Motors' second-best-selling car.
GM said Wednesday that it sold about 212,700 Cobalts in the United States last year. GM's top-selling car last year was the Chevrolet Impala, with 246,500 sales.
Production of the Cobalt began in October 2004 at GM's Lordstown complex. The Cobalt replaced the Chevrolet Cavalier, which recorded 256,600 sales in 2003, its last full year of production.
Last month, GM sold about 16,800 Cobalts, an increase of about 3,300 from the previous month.
Cobalt sales helped Chevrolet become the best-selling brand in the U.S. market in 2005, outpacing Ford for the first time in 19 years.
But that was where the good news ended for General Motors Corp. and other U.S. automakers, who continued to lose ground to foreign rivals.
GM's sales fell 4 percent for the year, led by a 7-percent decline in car sales and a 2-percent decline in sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles. Although Chevrolet sales slipped slightly from last year to 2.6 million, they outpaced Ford by around 21,000 vehicles.
It's still a boost
Paul Ballew, GM's executive director of market and industry analysis, said the year-end totals were below the company's expectations. But he said the win for Chevrolet gives the struggling automaker an important boost.
"It does confirm our ability to produce industry-leading vehicles," Ballew said.
Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday that its sales dropped 4 percent in 2005 as consumer demand for trucks and sport utility vehicles fell in the face of high gas prices.
DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, meanwhile, said its sales rose 5 percent for the year thanks to hot-selling models like the Chrysler 300.
It was a tumultuous year for automakers, who enjoyed near-record sales thanks to summertime discounts but also watched SUV sales plummet when gas prices spiked after Hurricane Katrina.
Ford's U.S. sales analysis manager George Pipas predicted SUV sales will stabilize in the coming year as long as gas prices remain lower than $3 a gallon.
"This is still a big segment, this is still a popular segment that meets the needs of many consumers," he said. "The wild card is gas prices."
Ford, the nation's second-biggest automaker after GM, said its car sales rose 5 percent for its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands, but truck and SUV sales fell 8 percent. Sales of Ford's Explorer and Expedition SUVs were off by more than 28 percent.
But Ford said sales of its crossover vehicles which are car-based SUVs rose 28 percent, outpacing all other categories and signaling a new trend in buying habits.
The company predicted that crossover sales will continue to outpace all other categories through the end of the decade.
The SUV slump didn't extend to all automakers. Nissan Motor Co. reported a 9.5-percent increase in sales for the year, largely on the strength of its truck and SUV sales.
Sales of the Nissan Pathfinder SUV doubled over a year ago.