A two-month factory shutdown, a slow return to previous production levels and challenges facing customers who wish to place orders for new cars – all of it caused by restrictions imposed during the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – combined to make 2020 a memorably difficult year for automakers. For GM, the largest effect in business terms was a U.S. sales decline of 12 percent to 2,547,339 from the 2,887,043 sales in 2019.
Although other factors were also involved, COVID-19 was the single biggest factor responsible for the downturn. Every one of GM’s four brands sold in the U.S. was affected (by over 21 percent in the case of Buick), though strong performances by the Chevy Blazer crossover and Chevy Silverado pickup truck in particular helped mitigate the damage.
But GM could not simply rely on the success of individual models in its portfolio to weather the COVID-19 storm. It also had to sharpen up certain aspects of its business that would have required attention even in a good year, aspects that took on new importance when the coronavirus began to affect business and the world at large to the extent that it has.
As GM spokesperson Megan Soule explained to GM Authority executive editor, Alex Luft, GM made a timely investment in logistics to expand the automaker’s dedicated Class 8 truck fleet. For those unfamiliar with U.S. commercial truck classifications, there are nine categories ranging from Class 1 to Class 8 (with Class 2 technically being split up into Class 2a and Class 2b) based on their gross vehicle weight rating, or GVWR. A Class 8 truck is one that weighs over 33,000 pounds. Such a vehicle is referred to by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as a Heavy Truck, though this broader definition also includes trucks with a GVWR of over 26,000 pounds. In other words, Class 8 trucks are the huge vehicle carriers we see carrying several vehicles.
Like many other automaker, GM employs these Class 8 trucks to transport new vehicles from its factories and distribution centers to dealerships across the country.
By increasing the size of its dedicated Class 8 truck fleet, The General was able to bring vehicles to dealers faster, thereby cutting the time from production to its eventual sale. The result is improved cashflow during the difficult times presented by COVID-19, making the path to recovery smoother and more direct.