A customer looks at a General Motors Co. Chevrolet vehicle for sale at a car dealership in Colma, Calif. On Monday, February 8, 2021.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
DETROIT – General Motors vehicle sales were supported by strong consumer demand in the first quarter as fleet sales slumped and a continuing shortage of semiconductor chips closed some assembly plants .
The Detroit automaker said Thursday it sold 642,250 vehicles in the first three months of the year, up 3.9% from a year earlier, when Covid-19 began to force dealerships and auto factories to close in March.
GM is one of the first major automakers to report first quarter sales on Thursday. Analysts expect sales in the industry to be up around 8% or 9% from the first quarter of 2020.
GM said retail sales to individual consumers rose 19% in the first quarter, while fleet sales to businesses and governments fell 35% from the previous year. The automaker expects consumer demand to remain resilient throughout this year.
“Consumer confidence and spending will continue to rise as a result of the stimulus, rising vaccination rates and the gradual reopening of the economy,” GM chief economist Elaine Buckberg said in a statement. . “Automotive demand is expected to remain strong throughout the year.”
The GM brands Buick, Cadillac and GMC saw double-digit sales increases in the first quarter, while Chevrolet – its biggest brand – fell 1.7%. Chevrolet’s decline was attributable to a 12.5% drop in sales of its full-size Silverado pickups.