Skip to Content
Stock Analyst Update

Pickups, SUVs Give GM's U.S. Sales a Nice Mix Tailwind

We expect robust year-over-year growth in 2021 against a soft comparable followed by more tepid growth in 2022.


Many automakers reported December or fourth quarter sales on Jan. 5 and according to Wards, December sales rose year over year by 6.4% but fell by 5.0% after adjusting for three extra selling days in December 2020 for GM (GM). The seasonally adjusted annualized selling rate of 16.27 million lagged Dec. 2019’s 16.81 million. With a COVID-19 vaccine rolling out throughout 2021, we think 2020’s full year total of about 14.46 million is the bottom of this cycle and we expect robust year-over-year growth in 2021 against a soft comparable followed by more tepid growth in 2022. Light truck models remain immensely popular, good news for the Detroit Three, and according to Wards 2020 was the first year that crossovers and SUVs combined for over half (52%) of U.S. new light vehicle sales.

GM’s fourth quarter U.S. vehicle sales rose 4.8% year over year (we calculate a 3.5% rise adjusting for one extra selling day) and for the full year finished down 11.8% to 2.55 million. GM’s deliveries were hurt by continued weak fleet demand especially from rental companies, but retail channel demand looked robust to us, rising 12%. GM’s small business fleet sales rose by 27% and by 5% for the full year. This was GM’s best retail fourth quarter since 2007 and the firm said retail industry sales reached pre-pandemic levels during the quarter. We see potential for good quarterly earnings, scheduled for Feb. 10, due to strong retail demand from GM’s pickups and full size SUVs, which are the most profitable vehicles it sells. This mix shift enabled GM’s fourth quarter average transaction price to reach a fourth quarter record of $41,886. Noteworthy on pricing is that 43% of the new generation Cadillac Escalade SUV’s sales in the quarter sold for over $100,000. Cadillac posted its best fourth quarter retail channel sales and retail share in four years, with the brand’s retail volume up 16% on the new CT4, CT5, and Escalade.

Morningstar Premium Members gain exclusive access to our full analyst reports, including fair value estimates, bull and bear breakdowns, and risk analyses. Not a Premium Member? Get this and other reports immediately when you try Morningstar Premium free for 14 days.

David Whiston does not own shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.

Transparency is how we protect the integrity of our work and keep empowering investors to achieve their goals and dreams. And we have unwavering standards for how we keep that integrity intact, from our research and data to our policies on content and your personal data.

We’d like to share more about how we work and what drives our day-to-day business.

We sell different types of products and services to both investment professionals and individual investors. These products and services are usually sold through license agreements or subscriptions. Our investment management business generates asset-based fees, which are calculated as a percentage of assets under management. We also sell both admissions and sponsorship packages for our investment conferences and advertising on our websites and newsletters.

How we use your information depends on the product and service that you use and your relationship with us. We may use it to:

  • Verify your identity, personalize the content you receive, or create and administer your account.
  • Provide specific products and services to you, such as portfolio management or data aggregation.
  • Develop and improve features of our offerings.
  • Gear advertisements and other marketing efforts towards your interests.

To learn more about how we handle and protect your data, visit our privacy center.

Maintaining independence and editorial freedom is essential to our mission of empowering investor success. We provide a platform for our authors to report on investments fairly, accurately, and from the investor’s point of view. We also respect individual opinions––they represent the unvarnished thinking of our people and exacting analysis of our research processes. Our authors can publish views that we may or may not agree with, but they show their work, distinguish facts from opinions, and make sure their analysis is clear and in no way misleading or deceptive.

To further protect the integrity of our editorial content, we keep a strict separation between our sales teams and authors to remove any pressure or influence on our analyses and research.

Read our editorial policy to learn more about our process.