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General Motors ready for gas price spike but doesn't really expect one

General Motors reported U.S. car sales in January were down 6% from the same month a year ago.

But GM's head of U.S. Sales, Don Johnson, says comparing the two months is tough.  That's because the Detroit automaker boosted sales significantly last January with incentives. 

Johnson says the good news is GM increased its market share in the U.S. last month, compared to December.  GM had about a 19% market share last month.

Johnson says it's not possible to predict gasoline prices, but for most of 2012, he thinks they'll stay under $4.00 a gallon.

In 2008, when gas prices spiked suddenly, exceeding an average of $4.00 a gallon, consumers flocked to dealerships to buy small, fuel-efficient cars.

GM had the Aveo and the Cobalt.  The cars were certainly fuel-efficient, but they weren't as appealing as small cars made by some other companies.

This time around, if gas prices go up, and customers react the same way, Johnson says GM is ready.  The Aveo has been replaced by a new small car, the Sonic, which is already selling strongly, and the Cruze.  The Cruze was the best-selling car in its segment for several months last year.

Ford sales rose 7.4% in January from the same period last year.

Chrysler's January sales rose an astonishing 44% compared to its lackluster performance last year.  The company has since introduced a number of new vehicles, and customer demand has risen in response.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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