Whatever affect the millions of recalls General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) has announced will have on sales, it will not be felt until the second quarter. During the first quarter, GM posted solid results. It delivered 2.4 million vehicles globally. The figure may be high enough to put it in front of rival Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) in the battle to be the No.1 car company in the world.
The top U.S. car company’s management announced last week:
GM dealers delivered 2,416,028 vehicles around the world in the first quarter of 2014, up 2% from a year ago.
Among GM’s top five global markets by volume, China posted the largest year-over-year sales increase, with deliveries up 13% to a record 919,114 units. Sales in the United Kingdom and Germany were also up, and Opel/Vauxhall grew its share in 10 European markets.
“We are very encouraged by our results in China, where we outperformed the industry, and in Europe, where Opel’s sales and the economic outlook are improving at the same time,” said GM President Dan Ammann. “We continue to be optimistic about the United States because our award-winning new products are performing well and we have more on the way. South America continues to be challenging for Chevrolet, where we face currency and other challenges, especially in Venezuela.”
While GM’s performance in China was not a surprise, given the size and rapid growth of what has become the world’s largest car market, results in Europe were. GM has lost money in Europe for over a decade, and its sales there have fallen consistently though the recession. Market leader Volkswagen A.G. has bested GM in Europe, and, along with Peugeot S.A., Fiat S.p.A. and Renault S.A., have effectively kept GM in fifth place in the region.
Two of GM’s brands did particularly well. Buick’s sales reached a record in the quarter, according to GM. The brand celebrates it 110th birthday this year. Cadillac sales rose 9%, and GM reported “sales in China more than doubled to 15,357.” The Cadillac numbers are small comfort. Cadillac continues to trail Mercedes, BMW and Audi by margins that most experts believe the GM brand cannot close.
If the effects of GM’s series of recalls are substantial, however, second quarter results may not be nearly good enough to brag about.