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GM Has Good News/Bad News March

Ram sales rose 25% to 33,831 units. Ford F-150 sales rose 16% to 67,513 units. Toyota (TM - Get Report) pickup sales rose 16% to 24,471, including Tundra's 8% increase to 9,270. At the tail end of this list, Silverado sales rose 8.4% to 39,561 and GMC Sierra sales were flat at 13,817, so combined sales rose 6% to 53,378.

Another sour note in the pickup truck market was that full-size pickup sales accounted for about 11.6% of the total automotive market in March, down from 12% in February but up from 10.5% in March 2012, according to Nesvold. GM was the principal contributor to the decline, according to Credit Suisse analyst Chris Ceraso. "GM lagged the pack," in March pickup trucks, Ceraso wrote in a note issued Wednesday.

"The performance of GM's full-size pickups relative to the industry in March could be an important warning for investors playing the housing derivative theme," Ceraso said. "Not all trucks or truck makers (or suppliers) may respond equally or at the same time. While the improvement in housing is supporting higher pickup truck sales at the industry level (and should do so through 2013), sales and/or production volumes for GM may lag the market as it makes the transition to the new trucks -- a process that will drag on throughout 2013."

Another troubling indicator in GM's sales report was that sales of the Chevrolet Malibu, the GM entry in the auto industry's biggest segment, fell 22% to 18,539. On the GM sales call, Don Johnson, vice president of Chevrolet sales and service, said the number is not altogether representative, since sales are up 25% since February and, also, a year ago GM was clearing out the 2012 Malibu. Still, overall Chevrolet sales rose just 0.5% to 173,859.

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