GM’s Soft Pickup Truck Sales Cause Its Stocks to Sag

September 4, 2018, 9:26 PM UTC

General Motors Co.’s sales fell almost 13% in August as the automaker pulled back on sales incentives, especially for full-size pickups, people familiar with the matter said.

The total sales result, which GM no longer reports every month to the public, missed analysts’ average estimate for a decline of 7.7%. Missing predictions was a shared fate for all major automakers except Ford Motor Co. in August, as demand plunged for passenger cars including the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

Any pullback in fleet sales or incentives is likely to reduce overall sales because retail demand is softer, said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive. Industrywide sales this year have kept pace with last year’s strong results.

“GM pulled way back on incentives in the month,” Schuster said. “The retail market is softer than last year. We have kept pace with last year because of fleet sales.”

Jim Cain, a GM spokesman, declined to comment on the sales drop, though he did confirm that the company dialed back discounts during the month. The automaker’s shares extended declines, dropping 1.4 percent to $35.56 as of 3:24 p.m. in New York trading. The stock is down 13 percent this year.

During the month, GM lowered incentive spending by more than $800 a vehicle on average compared with August of last year. GM’s discounts also were down more than $200 from July to $4,146 a vehicle, according to data from J.D. Power. Spending averaged $5,097 a vehicle at Ford and $4,760 at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

Cain said GM felt good enough with its inventory level to pull back on deal-making. That helped GM boost its average transaction price by $915 a vehicle from a year earlier, he said.

“We felt comfortable with our overall performance, especially with the new vehicles, and thought we had an opportunity to demonstrate discipline,” Cain said. “Some of our major competitors didn’t follow.”