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GM March U.S. Sales Rise 4.1%


General Motors Co. (GM), the largest U.S. automaker, said Tuesday that its U.S. vehicle sales for the month of March rose 4.1% from last year amid improvement in weather conditions as well as the country's economy.

The Detroit, Michigan-based company said its U.S. vehicle sales totaled 256,047 units in March, up 4.1% from 245,950 units in the same month last year.

There were 26 selling days for March 2014, compared to 27 for last year.

Retail sales for the month were up 7% from a year earlier, but fleet sales were down 5% due to a planned reduction in rental deliveries.

Among GM's four brands, Chevrolet sales increased 3.3% to 179,681 units, GMC sales climbed 7.4% to 41,173 units and Buick sales grew 13.4% to 20,428 units, while Cardillac sales fell 6.3% to 14,766 units.

"GM's retail sales, like the weather and the economy as a whole, have been on an improving trend since early February," said Kurt McNeil, GM's U.S. vice president of Sales Operations. "We expect to see solid economic growth in the months ahead, with the job market, household income and consumer spending all showing positive signs. It is a strong backdrop for the launch of our all-new heavy-duty pickups, large SUVs and other new products, like the Cadillac ATS coupe coming this summer."

GM delayed the release of its March sales figures for several hours due to a computer systems issue that impacted dealer sales reporting.

The sales report was released when GM CEO Mary Barra was testifying before a U.S. House committee regarding the ignition switch recalls.

GM has announced a series of recalls recently, prompting the automaker to order an internal investigation into the matter.

On Friday, the largest U.S. automaker expanded its global recall of vehicles with defective ignition switches to 2.6 million. On March 17, GM said it is recalling about 1.55 million vehicles including full-size crossovers, vans and sedans in the U.S. to implement a range of repairs. The company said Monday that it would recall more than 1.3 million vehicles in the United States to fix their power steering. The automaker now expects to take a charge of up to about $750 million in the first quarter to cover the cost of recalls announced during the quarter.

Facing intense questioning from U.S. lawmakers Tuesday, CEO Barra claimed that the company would be fully transparent as soon as it discovers the reason for the decade-long delay in recalling vehicles with defective ignition switches.

"More than a decade ago, GM embarked on a small car program," Barra said in prepared remarks. "Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in that program, but I can tell you that we will find out."

She added, "When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers."

Also during her testimony, Barra said that the company has retained Kenneth Feinberg as a consultant to explore and evaluate options in its response to families of accident victims whose vehicles are being recalled for possible ignition switch defects.

Feinberg is highly regarded for his handling of compensation issues related to 9/11, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Boston Marathon bombing.

In addition, the company has appointed Jeff Boyer as new Vice President for Global Vehicle Safety whose first priority is to quickly identify and resolve product safety and customer satisfaction issues, she said.

The hearing is still going on.

Earlier Tuesday, Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford Motor Co. (F), the second largest U.S. automaker, said it sold 244,167 vehicles in the U.S. in March, up 3.4% from 236,160 vehicles sold in the same month last year. Ford's car sales rose 2.6% year-over-year to 86,791 units in March, while truck sales grew 4.1% to 86,378 units and utility vehicle sales climbed 3.6% to 70,998 units.

Meanwhile, Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler Group LLC, the third-largest U.S. automaker owned by Italy-based Fiat SpA (FIATY), reported a 13% increase in total U.S. sales to 193,815 units from last year. marks the 48th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains for Chrysler.

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., a unit of Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. (TM), said its March sales increased 4.9% year-over-year to 215,348 units. Sales at Toyota division rose 2.5% to 186,755 units, while sales at Lexus division surged 23.3% to 28,593 units.

GM shares closed Tuesday's regular trading session at $34.34, down 8 cents, but gained 0.32% in after hours trading.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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