Mazda managed to eke out a 1% sales increase in May, driven, in part, of strong results by the MX-5 Miata.

Mazda broke through the string of negative sales reports brought on the COVID-19 pandemic by reporting a 1% sales increase that countered the overall drop in vehicles sales during the month.

Mazda benefitted from strong sales of the CX-9 crossover, which increased by 21%, reflecting the steady growth of sales of utility vehicles across the industry. Sales of the Mazda MX-5 Miata also increased, the company said.

Overall, automakers posted better-than-expected results during the second month of pandemic-related lockdowns and the substantial cutback in fleet sales, partially driven by rental car companies electing to keep their existing fleets longer instead of buying new vehicles.

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Volvo Cars USA also reported relatively strong sales, dropping just 2.5% compared with May 2019. The number reflects a strong result from the company’s business coronavirus restart plan, swift activation of digital tools to support customers, and sustained strength of the Volvo brand and product offering, Volvo said.

Volvo’s XC40 small SUV had its best sales month in two years, according to the company.

“I am extremely proud of all the Volvo team members and our retail partners that have worked to ensure our business is able to recover quickly and safely,” said Anders Gustafsson, president and CEO of Volvo Car USA.

“While sales have not fully returned to normal, this month’s results indicate that our products and brand resonate with consumers more than ever. The successful launch of programs to support our retailers and consumers have been well received as we adapt to this new normal,” he said.

Gustafsson said strong retail sales supported the brand’s positive overall sales trend despite challenges posed by coronavirus-related shutdowns. The XC40 compact luxury SUV achieved its best month since its launch in 2018, up 34.4% compared with May 2019 and is showing a positive sales trend, up 1% year-to-date. Overall Volvo’s SUV line-up continues to drive strong sales performance, with the XC40, XC60, and XC90 accounting for 85% of Volvo’s total sales in May.

Earlier in May, Volvo rolled out a playbook and point-of-sale kit to every retailer to support health protections in showrooms and service centers throughout the nation as restrictions eased in many areas.

The directions, based on information from the Centers for Disease Control, local regulations, and industry guidance, outlines cleaning, hygiene, and social distance protocols, as well as providing access to tools needed to restart operations safely.

The Subaru Forester had its best May ever last month, but the company still posted a sales drop overall.

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Subaru of America Inc. reported a 19% decrease compared with record May 2019. These results reflect the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic and the resulting retailer shutdowns that have impacted the entire automobile industry. Following eleven consecutive years of sales records, Subaru reported year-to-date sales of 213,199, a 23% decrease compared to the same period in 2019.

“While we at Subaru of America continue to feel the effects the pandemic has had on both the auto industry and the country as a whole, we are hopeful that our May results show a positive change,” said Thomas J. Doll, president and CEO, Subaru of America.

“Subaru sales exceeded our expectations, including a best-ever May for Forester, and we have the hard work and dedication of our retailers and their employees to thank,” said Jeff Walters, senior vice president of Sales. “We are appreciative of their commitment to safely sell and deliver Subaru vehicles to our customers,” Walters said.

Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury brand, reported a 41% sales drop for the month of May to go with Hyundai’s 13% decline in May. Honda saw its May sales fall 16.9% with cars accounting the larger share with a 24.6% drop. The company’s luxury unit, Acura, also sales slump last month 23.7% while the Honda division was down just 16.2%. Additionally, Hyundai’s sibling, Kia, saw sales fall 23.7% although the new Seltos small SUV enjoyed its best month ever, topping the 3,000-unit mark in May.

The new Seltos had its best sales month so far in May, passing the 3,000-unit mark.

Cox Automotive Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke said the data reflected mixed trends for the industry right now that, at the very minimum, an indication of a flattening of the recovery we’ve been witnessing.

Cox estimated that overall sales dropped 33% in May from year-ago levels but a healthy gain from April. Initial reports and an analysis of other available data indicate May likely closed higher than forecast, with continued strength in the pickup and SUV segments.

(May sales to drop as fleet sales collapse.)

Senior Economist Charlie Chesbrough added, “Daily sales have been improving since hitting bottom in early April, but we are now questioning if the momentum will continue or has a new, lower plateau been reached. With supply essentially stagnant since early April and production only slowly returning, limited inventory will likely disrupt any sales recovery in the near term.”

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