NEW YORK: Automakers’ struggles with supply-chain issues continued in the first quarter as all major producers that reported sales posted steep declines in the period.
General Motors Co (GM), which lost the United States sales crown last year, once again finished behind Toyota Motor Corp.
Semiconductor shortages and pandemic upheaval still weigh on the industry, which now confronts additional challenges related to the war in Ukraine, volatile fuel prices and hard-to-find materials for batteries and other components.
That’s upending production and leaving dealer lots barren across the US automakers likely sold a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 13.2 million new vehicles in March, down 26% from a year earlier, according to the average forecast of eight market researchers surveyed by Bloomberg.
The impact of the challenges became clearer Friday as major automakers began reporting US sales in the year-to-date. Tesla Inc, which reports global deliveries and Ford Motor Co will also announce in the coming days.
Toyota, which overtook GM in the last quarter of 2021 as the No. 1 seller in the US, retained its crown in early 2022 based on the initial reports.
It was buoyed by more inventory, fewer trim options and a heavy reliance on hybrid models.
Consumers have flocked to hybrids and electric vehicles amid soaring gas prices.
Whether buyers can actually get what they’re looking for is another question. Many manufacturers have had to slow output due to supply-chain issues, meaning consumers have to wait longer for their preferred vehicle model, pay higher prices or buy something else entirely.
GM posted a 20% drop in sales to 512,846 cars and trucks, losing out to rival Toyota for a second consecutive quarter – albeit by less than 2,000 vehicles.
Sales of its priciest pickups and SUVs were up, as it directed supplies of semiconductors to those high-profit vehicles.
The Chevy Silverado HD trucks rose 11%, the heavy-duty version of its GMC Sierra pickup gained 12% and the blingy Cadillac Escalade climbed 6.7%.
The Japanese automaker saw sales in the first three months drop 15% to 514,592 vehicles, reflecting constraints on production due to the chip shortage.
Hybrid gas-electric models, which now make up more than a quarter of Toyota’s sales, dipped only 3.9% as the automaker prioritised those vehicles for scarce chips.
Sales of hybrid versions of the brand’s top selling vehicle, the RAV4 compact SUV, rose by double digits in the quarter.
Stellantis NV said its sales fell 14% in the first quarter, which was better than the decline of the rest of the industry.
The Jeep brand helped keep sales from falling further with even volume compared to the same quarter a year ago.
The Ram pickup boasted deliveries of 127,116 vehicles, down 15% but more than GM’s Silverado in the quarter.
Hyundai’s retail record was red hot for the Korean automaker, with US sales up 1.4% to a record 159,676 vehicles, even as overall sales for the brand fell 4%.
Hyundai attributed the drop to its decision to stop fleet sales to rental car companies and other businesses, a move designed to save semiconductors for its more profitable retail channel.
Standouts included its Tucson compact SUV and Venue subcompact SUV models. — Bloomberg.