A 2013 Cadillac ATS rolls off a General Motors assembly line in Lansing,… (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images )
General Motors Co. posted global sales of 2.36 million vehicles in the first quarter of 2013, up 3.6%, as the U.S. carmaker narrowly topped Volkswagen Group, its closest international rival.
VW’s global sales rose 5% from 2012's first quarter to 2.27 million vehicles.
Both automakers are expected again to trail Toyota Motor Corp. in sales volume when the world’s largest car company releases its first-quarter data next week.
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Still, both second-ranked GM and third-place VW are grabbing market share on the international stage. Their growth rates were faster than the 1.5% increase estimated by GM for global, industrywide auto sales during the first quarter.
GM is seeing its most robust growth in the North American market, where sales rose 8.2% to 761,616 vehicles in the latest quarter. Sales also grew in its international division, represented mostly by China, by 6.9% to 992,234 vehicles.
But like other automakers, including VW, GM is seeing sales slide in Europe, which has retreated back into recession. GM’s sales there fell 6.4% to 372,634. It also is running into head winds in South America where sales fell 5.3% to 234,474.
Although GM’s flagship division Chevrolet has now logged 10 consecutive quarters of sales gains, its growth was sluggish, less than 1% in the latest quarter. Its fastest growth was in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil.
Using the new slogan Find New Roads, GM is marketing Chevrolet as its top international brand. Next year, it will gain the coveted jersey sponsorship position on the uniforms of the Manchester United soccer team. The English Premier League team is one of the most recognizable and most televised sports franchises internationally.
“Chevrolet is growing around the world by leveraging GM’s global engineering and design expertise to deliver the right products in the right markets,” said Mark Reuss, GM president of North America.
Last year Toyota regained its position as the world’s biggest automakers, selling 9.7 million cars and trucks. GM sold 9.29 million and VW sold 9.1 million.
Although most analysts believe strong sales in North America will allow Toyota retain its title this year, the Japanese automaker faces some obstacles, especially in China, where a political dispute with Japan has sent consumers to other brands, including GM.
VW will have difficulty catching GM because of the economic problems in Europe.
In the latest quarter, “positive momentum was maintained in North America and China,” said Christian Klingler, VW’s Group Board Member for Sales. “Almost all other regions, however, particularly the markets in Western Europe, remain affected by uncertainty which is in some cases considerable.”
He said sales data for March “clearly show that the markets are becoming even more difficult.”
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