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GM’s first quarter sales up 3.9% on strong consumer demand

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A customer looks at a General Motors Co. Chevrolet vehicle for sale at a car dealership in Colma, California, on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

DETROIT – General Motors’ vehicle sales were buoyed by strong consumer demand in the first quarter as fleet sales cratered and an ongoing semiconductor chip shortage shuttered some assembly plants.

The Detroit automaker said Thursday it sold 642,250 vehicles during the first three months of the year, up 3.9% compared to a year earlier, when Covid-19 started forcing dealerships and auto plants to shutter in March.

GM is among the first major automakers to report first-quarter sales on Thursday. Analysts expect sales across the industry to be up about 8% or 9% compared to the first quarter of 2020.

GM said retail sales to individual consumers increased 19% in the first quarter, while fleet sales to corporate and government clients declined 35% from a year earlier. The automaker expects consumer demand to remain resilient throughout this year.

“Consumer confidence and spending will continue to increase due to stimulus, rising vaccination rates and the progressive reopening of the economy,” GM Chief Economist Elaine Buckberg said in a release. “Auto demand should remain strong throughout the year.”

GM’s Buick, Cadillac and GMC brands experienced double-digit sales increases during the first quarter, while Chevrolet – its largest brand – declined 1.7%. Chevrolet’s drop was due to a 12.5% decrease in sales of its Silverado full-size pickup trucks.

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