Chip shortage tanks GM’s third-quarter sales

An American flag flies at a Chevrolet dealership on August 4, 2021 in Glendale, California. In spite of a computer chip shortage, General Motors (GM) posted a $2.8 billion net profit in the second quarter.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

DETROIT – General Motors’ U.S. vehicle sales during the third quarter plummeted by more than 30% from last year as an ongoing shortage of semiconductor chips interrupted vehicle production and cut dealer inventories.

The Detroit automaker on Friday said it sold about 447,000 vehicles from July through September, down 32.8% from a year earlier when sales volumes were depressed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decline was slightly wider than industry analysts’ expectations of 28.9% and 31.5%.

The chip shortage has caused GM to shutter plants for weeks, if not months, and also partially produce vehicles that are in high demand such as its full-size pickup trucks to then finish when chips become available.

GM warned investors last month its North American wholesale volumes would be down about 200,000 units in the second half of 2021 compared with the first six months of the year. It continues to maintain its financial guidance for the year, including adjusted earnings between $11.5 billion and $13.5 billion, or $5.40 to $6.40 a share.

Every brand for the automaker reported double-digit sales losses in the third quarter, led by a 36.1% decline for Chevrolet.

GM plans to make up some lost volume in the fourth quarter, as Steve Carlisle, GM president of North America, on Friday said the chip supply constraint is improving.

“The semiconductor supply disruptions that impacted our third-quarter wholesale and customer deliveries are improving,” he said in a statement. “As we look to the fourth quarter, a steady flow of vehicles held at plants will continue to be released to dealers, we are restarting production at key crossover and car plants, and we look forward to a more stable operating environment through the fall.”

GM reported its overall sales through September were level with a year ago at about 1.8 million units. Sales for GM’s brands are all up for the year side from Chevrolet, which is down by 5.6% Buick increased by 27.4%, GMC by 8% and Cadillac by 10.8%, according to GM.

GM is among the first major automakers to report third-quarter sales on Friday. Overall, analysts estimate automakers sold less than 3.4 million vehicles, down between 13% and 14% from the same time last year.

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