Industry Market Trends

U.S. Auto Sales Surge in May

Jun 09, 2010

Automakers ended May with strong sales, as the top U.S. auto firms reported double-digit increases boosted partly by the holiday weekend. The rising demand signals a continuing recovery for the once-ailing auto industry.

Car manufacturers posted significant sales increases in May, with the major United States firms posting double-digit gains in individual and fleet sales thanks to holiday weekend spending. This marked the seventh consecutive month of growth and raised the annual sales projection for the industry as a whole.

May's largest gains were made by Chrysler Group LLC, which last week reported a monthly sales total of 104,819 units, a 33 percent increase over the same month in 2009 and the first time the company's sales have topped 100,000 units since March 2009. May sales rose 10 percent over April 2010. Chrysler's strongest increase was in car sales, which rose 86.3 percent year-over-year, while sales of light trucks rose 16.8 percent.

"The company continues to show improvement each month, with May being our strongest month this year, exceeding overall industry growth for the second month in a row," Chrysler President and CEO Fred Diaz said in an announcement of the results.

According to industry tracking firm Autodata, Chrysler has sold 434,737 vehicles so far this year, 7.9 percent more than the automaker sold during the same period last year.

Meanwhile, General Motors Co., which reported its first post-bankruptcy quarterly profit last month, sold 223,822 vehicles in May, a 16.6 percent sales increase over the same month last year. Year-to-date, GM has sold 885,141 vehicles, 13.8 percent more than in the same period in 2009.

"Each of our brands has new products that are being received well by customers. In fact, these new vehicles now account for about one in every four retail sales in the U.S," Steve Carlisle, vice president of U.S. sales operations for GM, said in an announcement. "With each brand launching new vehicles in the next few months, we are optimistic about the remainder of the year.

"We're a much leaner and more agile company today and can take advantage of movements in consumer tastes," Carlisle continued.

Ford Motor Co., which remained comparatively stable through the economic downturn and did not require a federal bailout, reported 192,253 new vehicles sales in May, up 23 percent from May 2009 and marking the sixth consecutive month the company's sales have exceeded 20 percent growth over the previous year. So far in 2010, the company has sold 783,845 units, 31 percent above the same period last year.

The surge in automakers' sales was partly due to Memorial Day weekend, during which car sales average about 40 percent higher than for non-holiday May weekends, with sales on the last day of May averaging 130 percent higher than on a typical sales day, according to auto research firm

In addition to the Memorial Day boost in customer spending, fleet sales have been a major contributor to gains by U.S. auto manufacturers.

"Auto makers were helped in May by higher purchases by rental-car companies," the Wall Street Journal reports. "As the U.S. economy foundered in 2009, rental companies held on to vehicles longer. But in the first half of this year they have been renewing their fleets."

Sales for certain small trucks and SUVs, which typically generate high profits, have also been rebounding, due in part to recent declines in the price of gasoline, the Journal notes.

Possibly due to the lingering effects of recent recalls, sales for Toyota Motor Co., the world's largest automaker, lagged behind competitors in May. Toyota sold 162,813 vehicles last month, up 6.7 percent from May 2009. Year-to-date, the company has sold 705,938 units, up 10.5 percent from the previous year.

According to Autodata, May vehicles sales for Honda Motor Co. increased 19.1 percent year-over-year, Nissan Motor Co.'s rose 24.1 percent and Hyundai Motor America's rose 32.8 percent.

"The significant year-over-year increases are expected to continue through the remainder of the second quarter before starting to slow in the second half of 2010 to a more sustainable level of growth," J.D. Power and Associates forecasts. "The second quarter of 2010 is projected to be up 60 percent from the same period in 2009, with volume at 2.9 million units."


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...May 2010 U.S. Sales Increased 33 Percent, Topping 100,000 Units

Chrysler Group LLC, June 2, 2010

U.S. Light Vehicle Retail Sales - May 2010 (Final Results), June 2, 2010 (revised)

GM U.S. Deliveries for May 2010 - Divisional Brand Level

General Motors Co., June 2, 2010

Ford's U.S. May Sales Up 23 Percent...

Ford Motor Co., June 2, 2010

...Memorial Day Weekend Sales Expected to Boost Industry to 11.4 Million SAAR, May 27, 2010

U.S. Car Sales Rose in May

by Neal E. Boudette

The Wall Street Journal, June 3, 2010

Toyota Reports May Sales

Toyota Motor Co., June 2, 2010

...Strong Close Might Offset Mixed Start for May New-Vehicle Retail Sales

J.D. Power and Associates, May 20, 2010