DETROIT (

TheStreet

) --

GM

(GM) - Get Report

said April sales rose 26.4%, as higher gasoline costs spurred demand for fuel-efficient vehicles.

The sale of four-cylinder vehicles represent 39% of GM sales, up from 29% a year earlier, the company said. The Chevrolet Cruze (pictured below) had its best month ever, with sales of 25,160 units. Sales of the Chevy Aveo rose 67.3%, even the Sonic is about to replace the Aveo. And GM's share of the small, compact and compact crossover segments increased by an estimated 3.4 share points, compared to the first quarter of 2010.

"U.S. consumers have been purchasing smaller, more efficient vehicles," said Don Johnson, vice president of U.S. sales operations, on GM's sales conference call. "For the first time, we are

prepared for this shift," which began to occur in March, Johnson said.

The compact segment now accounts for 17.3% of the industry, up 2.2 points from a year ago, he said. This is why the success of the Cruze is so important to GM. The mid-sized segment is second with 15.7% of the industry, while the compact crossover segment is third.

Overall, GM April sales totaled 232,538. Retail sales rose 25%, car sales rose 49% and crossover sales rose 28%. Meanwhile, the company said its retail sales rose 4% from March, even as incentive spending declined by more than 10%.

GM shares were adding 76 cents to $32.94 in early afternoon trading Tuesday.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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Ted Reed