Chip Shortage Crushes GM Sales, on Track for Worst Year Since 1958

GM attributed COVID-related supply chain disruptions in Malaysia for its disastrous Q3 results.

Running low on chips is a god-damned travesty when you still have half the guacamole left. It’s an even bigger problem when you’re a global automaker who can’t resort to scooping the proverbial guacamole out with your hand like a degenerate, and can only watch in horror as chip shortages put you on track for your worst annual sales since the 1950s. Such is the situation for GM right now heading into the end of 2021.

In its newly released third-quarter 2021 sales report, General Motors acknowledged 446,997 vehicle deliveries in the United States. This marks a 218,195-vehicle fall from the same quarter last year, and an even bigger plunge of 291,641 from Q3 2019. According to Nick Bunkley of Automotive News, this puts GM on pace for its worst U.S. sales volume since 1958, and behind Toyota by an approximate 80,000 sales and counting.

2024 GMC Hummer SUV by 2022 GMC Hummer EV pickup, Hummer

GM’s Q3 2020 was obviously sunk by a combo of COVID-related production disruptions and poor foot traffic in dealers, while GM attributes its more severe 2021 plunge to supply chain disruptions in Malaysia. Despite this and the paralyzingly costly Chevy Bolt recall, GM remains optimistic it will achieve a financial outcome within the “guidance range” of its goals for calendar 2021. This may be due in part to notable gains by its premium brands, with Buick, Cadillac, and GMC still reporting 27, 11, and eight percent gains respectively, while multiple high-margin products all recorded notable gains in Q3 2021.

Sales remained strong for full-size trucks in particular, with retail share growing two percent, at a combined 38 for the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, while fleet sales grew by 13 percent. GM continues to dominate the full-size SUV segment too, taking close to 70 percent of the market with the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, and GMC Yukon. All enjoyed sales growth, especially to fleet customers, which bought 89 percent more of the SUVs, though none did quite as well as the 2021 Escalade. Sales of Cadillac’s redesigned range-topper grew a whole 123 percent, shoring up its status as the bestselling luxury SUV.

2022 Cadillac Lyriq, General Motors

Despite being a crossover for people who lead dull lives, the Chevy Trailblazer made serious gains too, of 147 percent, while its relative the Buick Encore GX pipped up three percent. And now that it’s as spun-up as the turbos on the upcoming C8 ZR1, the Chevy Corvette’s sales are up too, growing a whole 60 percent for the 2021 model.

So, even though overall sales are down, GM knows that saving semiconductor chips for its most profitable models is the path to profit. Don’t bank on one rough quarter being a sign that this member of Detroit’s Big Three is faltering, especially with halo products like the 2022 GMC Hummer EV on the way.

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