With Fiat Chrysler and Toyota leading the way, automakers surprised on the upside in May, posting modest sales increases for the month.
FCA, where overall sales increased 2%, reported setting three records in May, led by the Ram brand which notched its 12th consecutive monthly sales record as demand for both light-duty and heavy-duty pickup trucks remained strong.
It was also the best May ever for the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the highest level of May sales for the Dodge Charger in six years. Overall, total sales rose to 218,702 vehicles. Fleet represented 31% of total sales during the month. On a year-to-date basis, fleet accounted for 22% FCA of sales, the automaker reported.
“On a year-over-year basis we have increased our average transaction prices by more than $3,000 a vehicle and still managed some notable sales increases,” said Reid Bigland, U.S. head of Sales. “In its first full month on sale, our all new Jeep Gladiator pickup truck delivered more than 2,500 vehicle sales, our Ram pickup truck sales soared 33% and the Jeep Grand Cherokee delivered its best May sales ever.”
(Honda sees opportunity to grow car sales in a light truck sales. Click Here for the story.)
General Motors and Ford Motor Co. no longer report monthly sales total.
Japanese automakers posted mixed results for May with the Toyota, the largest Japanese brand posting a solid increase, and Subaru enjoyed its best month ever, according to sales reports released Monday. Nissan also posted a modest increase while Honda reported its sales slipped last month.
Toyota Motor North America said May 2019 sales of 222,174 vehicles represented an increase of 3.2% on a volume and daily selling rate (DSR) basis versus May 2018. Toyota division posted May sales of 197,637 units, up 4.1% on a volume and DSR basis. Lexus division posted May sales of 24,537 vehicles, down 3.4% on a volume and DSR basis.
Honda sales dropped 5.9%, but Acura sales climbed 5.7% on strong sales of RDX and MDX. “We’re seeing growth opportunities in cars and light trucks for both Honda and Acura brands as the market continues to level off,” said Henio Arcangeli Jr., senior vice president of Automobile Sales at American Honda Motor Co.
Nissan Group announced total U.S. sales for May 2019 of 131,983 units, an increase of 0.1% compared to the prior year. The Nissan division saw sales jump 1.1% while its Infiniti luxury division fell 10.4%.
Subaru reported 63,972 vehicle sales for May 2019, a 6.4% increase compared with May 2018, and the best May sales in the history of the company. The automaker also reported year-to-date sales of 278,014, a 5.7% gain compared with the same period in 2018.
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“Coming off of a record-breaking April, we are excited to continue the momentum in May with a milestone 90th month of consecutive sales increases,” said Thomas J. Doll, president and CEO, Subaru of America Inc.
“We have a dedicated group of retailers who have made these results possible and are the true strength of our brand. While we are humbled by record May sales, we remain proud to deliver reliable vehicles with new, innovative technology in an increasingly competitive market,” Doll said.
The valuation analysts at Kelley Blue Book estimated average transaction price for a light vehicle in the United States was $37,185 in May 2019 and new vehicle prices increased $1,320 (up 3.7%) from May 2018, while decreasing $208 from last month.
“SUVs bounced back in May 2019 and drove many of those increases for automakers, especially those with new and redesigned models on dealer lots. However, with this expected to be the fifth down month in a row, the question for this year remains whether automakers will start to trade some of their pricing power for greater incentives and more sales,” said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
While automakers were making more per vehicle sold, shoppers were finally getting a bit of a break on pricing with a drop in the interest rates they were charged, according to Edmunds.
Interest rates for new vehicles dipped to their lowest level of 2019 in May, according to the car shopping experts at Edmunds. The annual percentage rate (APR) on new financed vehicles averaged 6.1% in May, compared to 6.27% in April.
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Edmunds analysts say this month-over-month dip is in part due to a bump in zero percent finance deals from automakers in May; these deals constituted 5.7% of financed transactions, compared to 3.2% last month.