Ford, GM Take Hit in Compact Segments
But even though Detroit's two publicly held automakers reported overall sales declines, with Ford down 5% and GM down 8.2% as Toyota (TM) gained 11.6%, investors did not seem overly perturbed. GM shares were rising 35 cents to $23.35 in mid-afternoon trading Tuesday, while Ford shares were flat at $11.27.
"There's no doubt the Japanese are back in the market," said Don Johnson, vice president of U.S. sales operations, on the GM sales call. "They have a high inventory and they're being aggressive in the fleet business."
Between March and April, Ford cut incentive spending by 9.9%, the second biggest drop in the industry, according to TrueCar.com. Nissan cut by 10.7%, while GM cut by 3.4%. Only Honda (HMC) and Toyota boosted incentive spending, with Honda up 8% and Toyota up 4%, TrueCar said. Chrysler was down 6.1% while the industry average declined 4.7% to $2,446.
Among compacts, sales of the Chevrolet Cruze dropped 28% to 18,205, while sales of the Toyota Corolla gained 15%to 24,804.
Cruze was perhaps the single biggest beneficiary of production slumps by Japanese automakers following the March 8 earthquake and tsunami.
"The compact car segment is obviously a very competitive segment," said Alan Batey, Chevrolet vice president for sales, on the sales call. "What we have done from day one is to position Cruze from a value perspective (and) we are not being drawn into a discounted sales position." He noted that the average transaction price for Cruze is $19,572, while the average transaction price for a Corolla is $16,917.
Meanwhile, sales of the subcompact Chevrolet Sonic, which was not available in April 2011, totaled 6,387. At least in the early part of the month, Sonic was the top-selling subcompact, Batey said.
At Ford, the big loser was the subcompact Fiesta. Its sales fell by 44% to 5,135, while sales of the Toyota Yaris climbed 142% to 4,274. Meanwhile, sales of the compact Focus gained 12.5% to 19,425.