General Motors and Toyota Motor suffered major declines in U.S. car and truck sales in the first three months of the year as the global shortage of computer chips continued to disrupt production and leave dealers with bare batches.
GM said Friday that its sales fell 20% to 512,846 light cars and light trucks. Toyota, which is the world’s largest automaker, sold 514,592 vehicles in the first three months of the year, down 15%. The company’s sluggish sales worsened later in the quarter, falling 24% in March from a year earlier.
Edmunds, an automotive data provider, forecast total industry sales of 3.2 million vehicles in the quarter, up from 3.9 million a year ago.
“Soaring gasoline prices were a major concern for consumers in March, but a lack of inventory is what ultimately depressed new vehicle sales in the first quarter,” said Jessica Caldwell, chief executive of the information from Edmunds. “Automakers are still grappling with continued disruptions to supply chains and production created by the chip shortage and Covid-19. On top of that, they likely face new challenges as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.
Rivian, an electric vehicle maker that recently started selling a pickup truck, also discussed the war in Ukraine in its Annual Report Thursday, saying the conflict has impacted multiple facets of its business and operations.
Ms Caldwell predicted the automaker and dealers would struggle with inventory shortages for the rest of this year.
GM said its dealers had 273,760 vehicles in stock or in transit to their lots. That was an improvement from the second half of last year, but less than at the end of March 2021, when its dealers had 334,628 vehicles in stock.
Still, company officials said they were confident the chip supply would improve soon. “Supply chain disruptions are not completely behind us, but we expect to continue to exceed 2021 production levels, particularly in the second half,” said Steve Carlisle, executive vice president who also serves as president. of GM North America, in a press release. .
GM said a strong labor market, higher production and pent-up demand should help lift its total sales of new cars and trucks in the United States this year above the 15 million sold in 2021.
“Normally, such a strong U.S. economy would translate to light vehicle sales in the 17 million range,” said GM chief economist Elaine Buckberg. “Supply chain improvements should boost auto sales this year, despite headwinds from rising inflation and fuel prices.”
GM’s electric vehicle sales, the fastest growing segment of the auto market, remained very weak in the first quarter. The company sold less than 500, including 99 Hummer pickups.
Toyota, which does not yet sell an all-electric vehicle in the United States, said it has strong demand for hybrid models, sales of which fell just 4% in the first quarter.
Honda, Stellantis and other automakers are expected to release their sales totals later Friday. Ford Motor plans to release sales numbers on Monday.