U.S. automakers post high quarterly sales even as chip shortage bites

FILE PHOTO: Chevrolet Equinox SUVs are parked awaiting shipment next to the General Motors Co (GM) CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

(Reuters) -Automakers on Thursday reported a rebound in first-quarter U.S. sales from a coronavirus-induced slump last year, but numbers were dulled by a global chip scarcity that forced many companies to cut production.

The need for increased personal safety during the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted sales for automakers, as people prefer to travel by their own cars to using public transportation.

However, the semiconductor chip shortage and severe winter weather in south west United States in February have caused automakers to shut factories, turning analysts cautious about the speed of the sector’s recovery in 2021.

General Motors Co said its first-quarter U.S. sales rose 4% to 642,250 vehicles, helped by increased demand for its Escalade sport utility vehicles and Encore subcompact crossover SUVs.

“Sales are off to a strong start in 2021, we are operating our truck and full-size SUV plants at full capacity and we plan to recover lost car and crossover production in the second half of the year where possible,” said Steve Carlisle, GM executive vice president.

The No.1 U.S. automaker said it estimates that the seasonally adjusted annual sales pace for the first quarter of the year was around 16.7 million units.

Japan’s Nissan Motor Co said its U.S. sales rose nearly 11% to 285,553 vehicles in the quarter, while South Korea’s Hyundai Motor’s U.S. sales jumped about 28% to 167,130 vehicles.

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