GM: December Sales Rose 7.5%

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- GM ( GM) said December sales rose by 7.5%, while sales of its four core brands rose by 15.5%.

The automaker said it sold 223,932 vehicles in December, with retail sales for the four brands up 27% from the same month a year earlier. Fleet sales accounted for just 17% of total sales. December was its best retail month of the year, GM said.

On a sales conference call, Don Johnson, vice president for US sales, said GM expects 2011 industry sales of 13 million to 13.5 million light, medium and heavy vehicles, up from 11.8 million in 2010. "Auto demand will continue to increase," he said.

During the month, Chevrolet sales rose 9% to147,960 units, while Chevrolet retail sales rose 21%, marking the best retail sales month since August 2009. Buick sales rose 40% to 17,095 and full-size pickup sales rose 29%. However, total sales of GM passenger cars fell 6%, driven by lower fleet sales.

For the full year 2010, core brand sales rose 16%, so that GM sold 118,435 more vehicles with four brands than it did in 2009 with eight brands. Sales of the Chevrolet Equinox rose 74% for the year.

Meanwhile, GM sold 567,458 crossovers, 50% more than a year earlier. Crossovers account for 26% of GM sales volume. "The crossover market is a great example of how consumers can have their cake and eat it too," Johnson said in a prepared statement. Those gains were led by the Chevrolet Equinox, which sold a record 22,784 units in December.

Month-end dealer inventory in the United States stood at about 511,000 units, which is about 25,000 lower compared to November and about 126,000 higher than December 2009.

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

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