General Motors Co on Thursday reported that US new vehicle sales fell 2.7 percent in the fourth quarter. Photo: (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

INTERNATIONAL - General Motors Co on Thursday reported that US new vehicle sales fell 2.7 percent in the fourth quarter, with declines across most of its brands as American auto sales appear set to weaken in 2019.

Sales were down at the automaker’s Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick brands.

GM stock fell 1.8 percent to $33.02 in premarket trading.

GM posted significant declines for passenger car models as American consumers continued to abandon those models in favour of larger, more comfortable vehicles. But the No. 1 US automaker reported drops for some of those more popular larger vehicles.

Sales fell for the Chevrolet Suburban, the Cadillac Escalade and the GMC Yukon, all popular large SUVs that produce high margins.

GM reported a small decline for its Silverado pickup truck in the fourth quarter as it transitioned to a new, revamped model.

“We are very bullish on pickups heading into 2019,” Kurt McNeil, GM’s US vice president for sales operations said in a statement. “We feel confident heading into 2019 because we have more major truck and crossover launches coming during the year and the US economy is strong.”

After a long bull run, US new vehicle sales are expected to drop in 2019.

Rising interest rates are seen weighing on sales as they could translate into higher monthly car payments for consumers. Recent stock market turmoil and uncertainty over the health of the U.S. economy could also add to consumer caution in the short term.

While passenger car sales have fallen off rapidly, pickup profitable trucks and SUVs are expected to remain relatively robust despite an overall decline in sales.

GM expects industrywide US new vehicle sales to hit 17.3 million units for 2018, a slight increase versus 2017.

Other major automakers including rival Ford Motor Co are due to report monthly auto sales figures on Thursday.

Reuters