Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Strikes Cause GM Sales to Plunge 37% in August

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Strikes Cause GM Sales to Plunge 37% in August

Article excerpt

DETROIT (AP) -- Summer strikes that crippled General Motors devastated its U.S. sales for the second consecutive month in August, as its market share remained nearly 10 percentage points below normal.

Sales figures released Thursday show the world's largest automaker again gave up the top U.S. sales spot to Ford as its assembly plants worked overtime to restock dealer lots decimated by the strikes.

GM said its sales fell nearly 37 percent last month, compared with August 1997. That was only a slight improvement from July's 38 percent decline.

Ford's sales increased 8 percent last month, led by a 13 percent surge in demand for its light trucks. Car sales rose just 1 percent.

GM's August market share was just under 22 percent. That's up slightly from July's 21 percent but still far off the 31 percent share in the first six months of the year. GM officials had predicted early last month that the automaker would regain half its lost share in August.

"We're hoping to get back to a more normal month in September," said Michael C. DiGiovanni, GM's market research chief. He declined to make any specific predictions.

The company's production came to a virtual halt in July due to two parts plant strikes by the United Auto Workers in Flint, Mich., the longest of which lasted 54 days. They were settled in late July.

The size of GM's sales decline caused an industry-wide drop of nearly 7 percent in August, even though most automakers' sales were up. The Big Three total was down 14 percent, despite gains posted by Ford and Chrysler. Chrysler reported Tuesday that its U.S. sales were up 3.5 percent, an August record.

European automakers showed the largest improvement, up 36 percent, while Asian automakers' sales rose 5 percent.

At Ford, sales of the Explorer and Expedition sport utility vehicles and F-series pickups -- the nation's top-selling vehicle -- also set August records.

"Ford and the U.S. economy were hitting on all cylinders in August," said Bob Rewey, Ford's vice president of sales and marketing. …

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