said Monday that it expects its U.S. fleet sales in the first quarter to be roughly flat as its market share in North America continues to decline.
GM sales analyst Paul Ballew said on a conference call that the world's largest automaker is facing "intense scrutiny" after it recently delayed the filing of its 10-K for 2005 and widened its reported loss for the year by roughly $2 billion. He said shoring up GM's dwindling market share remained a priority for the company, and GM plans to keep lowering prices to drive sales rather than relying on heavy promotions.
"We learned our lesson last year" by offering aggressive incentives and discounts, which wreaked havoc on sales, Ballew said. "Fixing the problem will be a long, slow process of strengthening our brands and offering value to our customers."
Ballew said GM's market share in North America will be around 24% in March, down from 27% in the same month last year. He said its market share likely will fall by one percentage point in the first quarter.
GM posted a loss of $10.6 billion for 2005, and it's planning a restructuring of its North American operations that will eliminate 30,000 jobs and idle a number of manufacturing plants by 2008. Last week, the automaker offered buyouts to 113,000 workers, hoping to tempt some into early retirement to help lower the company's bloated cost structure.
Shares of GM closed regular trading Monday up 25 cents, or 1.1%, to $22.90.