Sales Fell in 2020 but were Up in the Final Three Months of the Year Says General Motors

General Motors said its vehicle sales in the United States fell 12 percent in 2020, but increased 5 percent in the fourth quarter from the same period a year earlier, a hopeful sign for the auto industry at the end of a difficult year.

The automaker reported solid performances from its Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac brands in the final three months of the year. They offset a 10 percent drop in sales of Buick vehicles.

Overall, G.M. sold 2.5 million cars and light trucks in 2020, down from nearly 2.9 million a year earlier.

Auto sales fell sharply last spring as consumers stayed away from dealerships because of the coronavirus pandemic. G.M. and other automakers were forced to halt production for most of the second quarter when government officials forced many businesses to shut down to stop the spread of the virus.

But sales rebounded once factories restarted in part because of pent-up demand for cars and trucks. Some Americans bought cars in order to avoid mass transit and shared rides. It helped that people had more disposable income because they were spending less on travel, dining, and entertainment.

G.M. said its strong sales momentum continued through the end of the year. The company sold 771,323 cars and light trucks in the final three months of last year in what it described as its strongest fourth quarter since 2007.

“We look forward to an inflection point for the U.S. economy in spring,” G.M.’s chief economist, Elaine Buckberg, said in a statement. “Widening vaccination rates and warmer weather should enable consumers and businesses to return to a more normal range of activities, lifting the job market, consumer sentiment, and auto demand.”

Most other automakers are expected to report 2020 sales totals later on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, Toyota Motor said it sold 2.1 million cars and light trucks in the United States last year, 11 percent less than in 2019. In December, however, its sales jumped more than 20 percent, lifted by strong demand for sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks.