GM on Track to Be August's Car Sales Winner


GM (GM) is expected to show a sales increase of 15.3% from a year ago when it posts August numbers later this week. That would be an improvement of 30,000 cars and light trucks and would eclipse the unit gains of its smaller rivals.

Edmunds, the auto industry research firm, which posts monthly sales estimates, says the entire industry struggled in August. Total domestic unit sales are estimated to have risen just 4.8% from last year -- an increase of only 62,000 cars and light trucks. Edmunds adjusts its numbers based on sales days each month compared to the same period a year ago: August 2011 had 26 sales days, while August 2010 had 25, Edmunds notes. The research firm attributes the relative weakness to the still sluggish economy.

The most notable data in this month's report concerns the surge for GM compared to sales trouble at Ford (F). The No. 2 U.S. automaker is forecast to have a sales increase of 9.7%. Ford has grown more quickly than GM for most of the last three years. GM's Chapter 11 filing hampered whatever success it might have had in 2010. Ford stayed out of bankruptcy, which allowed it to spend aggressively on new models, but GM appears to have trumped Ford in terms of the popularity of its latest vehicles so far this year.

Wall Street isn't showing much confidence in either Ford or GM under the shadow of a possibly looming double-dip recession. Ford closed Monday trading at $10.93, near its 52-week low, and far below its 52-week high of $18.97. GM's stock, too, was trading near its 52 week low at $23.79, compared to a 52-week high of $39.48

Edmunds expects the largest Japanese car companies will report continued struggles as they try to restore production to levels that prevailed before March's devastating earthquake in Japan. Toyota's (TM) August sales numbers are expected to be off 14.4% year over year. Honda's (HMC) are forecast to be down by 25%.

The third of Detroit's car companies -- Chrysler -- is expected to post a gain of 16.6%, but its unit sales will only be a little more than half of GM's.

The domestic car industry which appeared to be recovering nicely in the spring, is no longer recovering at all.

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