Friday, April 27, 2007

GM's global sales rise, while market share falls

Friday, April 20, 2007
GM's global sales rise, while market share falls
Automaker reports gain of 66,814 sales over year-earlier period; still loses ground worldwide.
Greg Bensinger / Bloomberg News

DETROIT -- General Motors Corp., defending its standing as the world's largest automaker against Toyota Motor Corp., said first-quarter global sales rose 3 percent while its market share fell.

GM sold 2.26 million vehicles in the three months ended March 31, a gain of 66,814 over the year-earlier period, the Detroit-based company said Thursday in a statement. Global market share dropped to 13 percent from 13.1 percent, GM said.

The results indicated that GM's efforts to grow outside North America are succeeding as the company works to stem $12.4 billion in losses over two years. GM added sales in every region except North America, and boosted international sales to about 60 percent of its business, up from 55 percent at the end of 2006.

"This makes apparent the drag the U.S. is having on GM's performance," said Efraim Levy, a Standard & Poor's equity analyst in New York. "For a sustained turnaround, they have to be profitable in the U.S., the most lucrative market."

North American sales fell 6 percent, GM said. Levy said the automaker "probably would have gained market share if they didn't lose it at home."

Industrywide global sales grew 3 percent, to 17.41 million vehicles, and were on a pace to reach nearly 70 million by the end of the year, according to GM estimates.

GM's global sales fell about 0.8 percent to about 9.1 million last year. Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota has forecast 9.34 million sales for 2007. GM hasn't issued its projection.

GM's European sales rose 5.8 percent during the first three months and more than doubled in Russia, the fastest sales growth in the period, the automaker said.

Sales grew 17 percent in GM's Latin America, Africa and Middle East region, and 20 percent in the Asia-Pacific region.

GM has been focusing much of its overseas expansion on China, where it expects to almost double production to 1.7 million vehicles over the next three years. China sales rose 25 percent to 289,915 vehicles, GM said.

Hummer sales, down 23 percent to 15,177 vehicles, suffered the largest decline of any of GM's global divisions. Pontiac sales fell 19 percent and Saab sales dropped 11 percent.

Chevrolet, GM's largest division, gained 3.8 percent to 1.04 million vehicles last quarter, GM said. A 33 percent jump in European sales helped offset a 4.7 percent decline in North America.

Shares of GM fell 33 cents to $31.37 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. They have gained 2.1 percent this year.

GM's 8.375 percent note due July 2033 rose 0.19 cent to 90.63 cents on the dollar, yielding 9.34 percent, according to Trace, the NASD's bond-price reporting service.

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