GM Sales Down 34%, but Hope Rises

'It's kind of like the anchor bouncing along on the bottom of the lake,' said sales VP Mark LaNeve.
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General Motors

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said April sales fell 34% and reiterated that its sales declines have leveled off.

"It's kind of like the anchor bouncing a long on the bottom of the lake," said Mark LeNeve, vice president for sales and marketing, on a sales conference call. "It has found bottom and it's tripping along a little bit. I think we have found the bottom in aggregate."

LaNeve said GM and the industry continued at roughly the same sales rate as in February and March. Like

Ford

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, GM said that industry sales trailed off in the last seven to 10 days of April. For the month, GM delivered 173,007 vehicles.

Ford sales were down 32%

in April.

"We started the month very strong, we were up significantly for the first half of the month," he said. "(But) the month closed fairly softly for both ourselves and for the industry."

During the month, GM continually faced rumors that it was discontinuing various brands. "We fought rumors, everything except a Martian is now going to run General Motors," LaNeve said.

As for incentives, LaNeve said industry incentive levels are around 11%, which is relatively high, and that GM's incentive level is about 12%. But GM's April incentive level was down $207 from a year earlier while the industry incentive level was up about $400.

Sales analyst Mark DiGiovanni noted the 40% gap between disposable income and consumer spending. The ratio is "one of the biggest it's ever been" and compares to historic levels around 20%, he said. "The ducks are in a row for the industry to recover modestly in the second half of the year," he said, particularly if the U.S. adopts the type of auto stimulus program that has boosted sales 31% in China and 10% in Germany.

GM inventories dropped compared with a year ago. At the end of April, about 742,000 vehicles were in stock, down about 10% from a year earlier.