GM reports big drop in third-quarter US sales on semiconductor woes

General Motors Chevy Camaros sit on a lot at an assembly plant in Michigan, U.S., September 2, 2021. (Photo: CFP)

General Motors reported a sharp drop in third-quarter U.S. sales on Friday as the global semiconductor crunch depletes dealerships of auto supply amid still-strong consumer demand.

The U.S. automaker giant described auto inventories as "historically low" after months of limited semiconductor supply, which has led to manufacturing outages and cuts throughout its plant network.

GM reported third-quarter sales of 446,997 in the United States, down almost a third from the year-ago period.

In the most recent quarter, the chip shortage was exacerbated by a surge in COVID-19 cases in Malaysia, which is home to key semiconductor capacity.

But Steve Carlisle, executive vice president of GM North America, said the issues with chips "are improving" and that it looks forward to a "more stable operating environment through the fall."

One upside of the supply crunch for automakers has been rising vehicle prices, which can help offset some of the pain from lower sales.

In the third quarter, GM's average vehicle price was $47,467, up almost 32 percent from the equivalent period in 2018.

"While supply has been constraining sales in recent months, underlying demand conditions remain strong, thanks to ample job openings, growing pent-up vehicle demand and excess savings accumulated by many households during the pandemic," said GM Chief Economist Elaine Buckberg.

"We expect to continue selling every vehicle we can produce with rapid turnover."