While the other economic sectors suffered in May, the auto industry continued to post healthy sales in May even as sales showed sales leveling off at seasonally adjusted annual sales rate or SAAR of nearly 17 million units.
The domestic carmakers, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors, posted sales increases as did Infiniti, and Volkswagen, which has taken its share of lumps for its poor sales performance during the last two years.
FCA US reported a 4% increase compared with sales in May 2014, making it the group’s best May sales since 2005. The Chrysler, Jeep and Ram Truck brands each posted year-over-year sales gains in May compared with the same month a year ago. The Chrysler brand’s 32% increase was the largest sales gain of any FCA brand during the month. The group extended its streak of year-over-year sales gains to 62 consecutive months, Chrysler officials said.
“Our Jeep brand continues to set records with its best monthly sales ever in May, helping us to achieve our 62ndconsecutive month of year-over-year sales increases,” said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. Sales. “Despite one less industry selling day this May versus a year ago, we posted a 4% sales gain and exceeded the 200,000-unit threshold for the first time since March 2007.”
GM’s Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealers in the United States delivered 293,097 vehicles in May 2015, for the company’s best May sales since 2007 and its best month since August 2008. Total sales were up 3% year-over-year and retail sales were up 7% in a month when most major competitors lost ground. Pickup trucks and crossovers were especially strong sellers.
“Chevrolet has the hot hand in the pickup market thanks to our three-truck strategy,” said Kurt McNeil, General Motors’ U.S. vice president of Sales Operations. “Our marketshare is growing and our strategy is to retain these customers with the best overall ownership experience.”
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Ford, on the other hand, reported a 1% sales decline despite strong sales of the new Ford F-150 pickup. The automaker announced it was reducing the summer shutdown at its truck plants to meet the demand for the pickup.
“We continue to see strong consumer demand for our newest products, including Edge, F-150, Mustang, Transit Vans and Lincoln MKC,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service.
“Our all-new F-150 is still turning on dealer lots in 26 days against tight supply, and F-150 average transaction prices set a record in May, as customers continued buying a rich mix of high-series pickups,” he said.
Ford’s passenger car sales, however, suffered last month, as did those at Nissan.
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Nissan division finished the month at 124,305, down 1% on a unit basis, but up 2.8% adjusted for daily sales rate (DSR). Infiniti sales in May increased of 0.9% or 4.8% adjusted for DSR. Overall, sales of Nissan crossovers, trucks and SUVs set a May record, up 17.6% but, in a pattern repeated across the industry, sales of Nissan passenger cars slowed.
The trend towards trucks and utility vehicles is actually helping carmakers with their bottom lines, analysts said.
The analysts at Kelley Blue Book reported the estimated average transaction price for light vehicles in the United States was $33,363 in May 2015. New car prices have increased by $1,363 (up 4.3%) from May 2014, although they were down $130, or 0.4%, compare with April.
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“With the national average price of gasoline down nearly a dollar per gallon on average from one year ago, truck and SUV demand remains strong, elevating average transaction prices, especially for domestic automakers, in May,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “We also saw incentives spending remain nearly flat in May, which shows the strength of the overall new-car market.”