Strong sales of pickup trucks and luxury cars, sales of new vehicles rose again in May as carmakers continued to help keep the U.S. economy growing despite the continuing concerns about deficits and job creation.
The three domestic carmakers, General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group, all posted sales increases for May, as did their principal Japanese rivals – Nissan, Toyota and Honda – as well as luxury carmakers, such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
Ford led the way as its sales increased 14% in May, with cars up 9%, utilities up 15% and trucks up 18%. Retail sales increased 17%, marking the best May retail sales results since 2005.
“F-Series sales – fueled by construction growth and pent-up demand – reached their highest level in more than six years,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service.
Ford also reported the mid-sized Ford Fusion had its best month ever, posting sales of 29,553 vehicles. Long a strong seller in the Midwest, the sedan’s strongest areas of sales growth were in the western and southeastern areas of the U.S. last month.
Chrysler reported an 11% increase in U.S. sales, compared with sales in May 2012 and the group’s best May sales since 2007.
While the Jeep, Dodge, Ram Truck and Fiat brands each posted year-over-year sales gains in May compared with the same month a year ago, the Ram Truck brand’s 24% increase was the largest sales gain of any Chrysler Group brand in May. Chrysler Group extended its streak of year-over-year sales gains to 38 consecutive months in May.
“Our best May sales in six years enabled us to extend our sales streak to 38 consecutive months of year-over-year sales gains,” said Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales. “We continue to see strong retail sales throughout our product lineup as eight Chrysler Group vehicles set sales records in May, including best sales ever by the Jeep Wrangler and Compass.”
GM also posted a 3% sales increase, overcoming some weakness in the passenger car side despite sales of the Malibu falling 36% and Impala dropping 18%.
“Cadillac is growing faster than it has in almost 40 years, the pickup rebound is in full swing and we’re seeing strong retail demand for our crossovers” said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations. “These are all powerful signs that the gradual recovery in the economy is becoming more broad-based. That’s great news for the auto industry and General Motors.”
GM’s trucks sales were up 15% versus a year ago, including a 23% increase for large pickups and a 30% increase for large SUVs, the automaker reported.
The strong sales pace also boosted sales by Japan’s “Big Three.” Nissan reported a double-digit sales increase while Honda and Toyota also posted gains.
Nissan set a May U.S. sales record with 114,457 deliveries, an increase of 24.7% compared with May 2012, according to Jose Munoz, senior vice president for Sales and Marketing, Nissan Americas said.
While not as prodigious, Toyota posted a small gain in May.
“Toyota Motor Sales reported monthly sales increased 2.5%. The five-year high in consumer confidence translated into especially strong retail,” said Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager of Toyota Division. Honda also reported a 4.5% sales increase.
The healthy pick up trucks sales by GM, Ford and Chrysler and the stable sales by Japanese automakers are also putting the squeeze on the market share of the South Korean carmakers. Hyundai sales increased 2% in May, but the Korean share of the U.S. market appears to be in jeopardy.
Volkswagen of America, Inc. reported a 1.7% drop in sales, but did have a small bright spot in its numbers.
“We saw an uptick in our consumer traffic and closing rates this month which allowed us to set new records for Jetta and Passat,” said Jonathan Browning, president and CEO Volkswagen Group of America.
“In a month in which the industry saw strong growth in the pickup truck segments, an area in which we do not compete, we are pleased to see healthy consumer demand for our passenger cars, especially the growing demand for our TDI Clean Diesels and Hybrid line up.”
Audi, on the other hand, reported May 2013 sales of 13,228 vehicles, a 15% increase over the previous May record set last year. It was the 29th consecutive monthly record for the brand.
The BMW Group also reported an increase of 10.1%. Sales of BMW-brand vehicles increased 13.8% in May for a total of 25,230 compared with 22,168 vehicles sold in May 2012. Year-to-date, the BMW brand is up 8.2% on sales of 113,357 compared with 104,779 sold in the first five months of 2012.
Ludwig Willisch, president and CEO, BMW of North America, noted, “All the indicators from our dealers confirm that consumer confidence is increasing and we expect more successful months ahead.”
(Click Here to read more about the rise in U.S. auto sales in April.)
Mercedes-Benz USA also reported another month of record highs with sales reaching 27,359, an 8.3% increase over May 2012. Sales volumes at Mercedes-Benz jumped 9.8% last month (24,713), bringing year-to-date totals for the brand to a record high of 117,535 and giving it the lead in U.S. luxury vehicle sales.
(MKZ sales are back on track, but Lincoln faces still faces issues. Click Here to read more.)
In another sign of health for the industry, the estimated average transaction price for light vehicles in the United States was $31,377 in May 2013, up $152 (0.5%) from last month and up $103 (0.3%) year-over-year, according to Kelley Blue Book.
“Modest improvements in the economy, coupled with pent-up demand and top-notch product offerings are bringing shoppers back to market,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book. “Increasing transaction prices showcase this marketplace as consumers return for their next new vehicle before summer.”