Survey: Auto Bailout is Drag on GM Truck Sales

A consumer survey taken last week on behalf of the National Legal and Policy Center confirms that public disapproval of the auto bailout continues to dog General Motors, and is likely hurting pickup truck sales, a highly profitable segment of its line.

When 500 consumers in Texas were asked, “Would your decision to buy a specific brand of truck be influenced by whether that company received financial assistance from the federal government?,” 40.08% answered “absolutely.”  Another 11.75% responded “very likely,” and 10.60% responded “likely.” Thus, more than 60% said that the bailout would have some influence on their decision.

Only 23.89% responded “not too likely.”

Texas is the largest truck market in the country, with more sales than the next three states combined.

The release of the survey results comes amidst a major advertising campaign for GM’s full-size trucks – the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra – with significant visibility during the Major League Baseball playoffs.

In September, GM’s full-sized pickup trucks fell 8% from the same month a year ago, while Ford and Chrysler saw sales increases. The survey data tends to confirm assertions yesterday by NLPC Associate Fellow Mark Modica that many consumers in the truck buyer demographic are avoiding GM products in response to the bailout. Modica pointed out that truck buyers are older, less urban and more politically conservative than other consumers. The GM ad campaign includes the “Strong” TV ad that seems calculated to appeal to this demographic.

As Modica detailed, GM executives gave varying and conflicting reasons for the sales drop. But GM North America President Mark Reuss candidly acknowledged to Business Week:

“We … know that the government ownership influence is highest among truck buyers,” Reuss says. “Being owned by the government is problematic for now.”

About 30% of those surveyed either were currently or recently in the market for a truck. Ominously for GM, the percentages of those who said their buying decision would be influenced by whether the company received financial assistance from the government were higher than those not in the market.

The survey was conducted on  October 3 by American Market Trends.