General Motors sold 2,211,699 vehicles in 2010, a 7 percent gain compared with sales in 2009. But sales from all manufacturers combined grew 11 percent—meaning that because it failed to keep pace with its competitors GM lost market share. So how does the new, bailed-out and IPO'd GM portray the latest sales figures as a triumph? By focusing on the sales of the four "core brands" that are left after its 2009 bankruptcy—and ignoring lost sales at the four junked or sold-off brands (Pontiac, Saturn, Saab, and Hummer).
Does this spin make sense? Take the logic to its extreme. If GM sold 2 million cars with eight brands, and then shut down seven of them leaving only Buick—but, hey, Buick grew 20 percent from, say, 200,000 to 220,000—would you say, "Gee, GM's core brand grew 20 percent," or "Sh--, GM has collapsed to a shadow of its former self"? You could have both reactions, but I suspect the latter would dominate.
That's especially true because, after the four-brand cull that actually took place, you'd expect GM to capture a lot of the buyers who used to choose Pontiacs and Saturns (if not Saabs). So some people who used to buy midsize GM cars labeled "Pontiacs" now buy similar cars labeled "Buick." That's no net gain for GM, but to hear GM tell it Buick has surged! (Pontiac? We're ignoring Pontiac, remember.) Lots of Pontiac and Saturn buyers also apparently went to other manufacturers.
Things may be even worse when you look at sales to actual consumers, as opposed to fleets. As The Truth About Cars points out, those retail sales are highly prized because they reflect what people actually want to buy. And GM’s "retail market share fell a full 1.8% in 2010, from 18.6% to 16.8%," according to TTAC.
P.S.: Yes, market share isn't everything. You can make money on a smaller market share if you cut costs disproportionately, or if you're able to raise prices (and there is some evidence GM is making a bit of progress on the latter front). But I'm not the one making a big deal about market share. GM is. Outgoing Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs is too, bizarrely. Yesterday, Gibbs twittered
General Motors Co.'s sales were up 21 percent in 2010 for its four core brands http://is.gd/k5NgN
If you are going to crow about a company's market share as a presidential aide, you probably shouldn't use the same cheap gimmicks the company uses. People might think you were a corporatist shill! ... Also, the press shouldn't buy it.
P.P.S.: GM is doing very well in China. It now sells more cars over there than over here. But it doesn't manufacture the cars it sells over there over here. If GM just becomes a company selling Chinese-made cars in China and India and elsewhere, why did U.S. taxpayers bail them out again? Was it just to save Michigan manufacturing jobs for a couple of years before they went overseas? I think we were promised more.
P.P.P.S.: If only they built Cadillacs this well: Note how meticulously crafted GM's press release is:
GM’s four brands sold 118,435 more vehicles this year than the company did with eight brands in 2009, and will gain total and retail market share for the year.
Almost makes you think that the GM "company" gained "total retail and market share," until you diagram the sentence and realize that the subject of "will gain" is not "the company" but only "four brands." 4:51 p.m.
Still Digging: The Washington Post on possible candidates to replace Lawrence Summers as director of the Council of Economic Advisers:
One of the leading contenders is Gene Sperling, a longtime Democratic policy guru and veteran of the Bill Clinton White House who has spent two years advising Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. But some liberals say Sperling is too close to Wall Street after being paid $887,727 in 2008 by Goldman Sachs, one of several part-time jobs he held that year. Administration officials say Sperling was paid to develop a charity that has taught business skills to women in developing countries and did no commercial work. [E.A.]
Alert reader T asks: Does that make it better? ... 12:48 a.m.