After slowing a bit in April, U.S. auto sales are accelerating heading into summer. The annualized sales pace was back over 15 million units in May, driven by continued strong pickup truck sales, residual demand, affordable and available financing, and also some fairly hefty incentives. The industry overall beat last May by a robust 8%.
With trucks a major factor — thanks particularly to a fast-rebounding housing market — the domestic automakers did particularly well. Nissan and Subaru also were two import brands that enjoyed a particularly strong month. But automakers that saw modest gains overall had at least something to boast about in press releases. It looks like the start of a sizzling summer.
MAY 2013 SALES RESULTS, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS MAY 2012.
GENERAL MOTORS +3%
General Motors’ overall increase was unspectacular although the company claimed that its retail business was much better and that lower fleet sales dragged down the total. Pickup trucks were particularly strong and Cadillac is seeing volume growth with the arrival of the ATS and XTS.
Even with the addition of the Encore, Buick sales were down due to weakness in the Regal (-37%), the Enclave (-21%), and the LaCrosse (-15%).
The ATS and the XTS combined to add more than 5000 units to the brand’s total, which made for a big gain overall despite CTS volume that was depressed by the model changeover.
Once again, trucks kept Chevrolet in the black, lead by the Silverado (+25%), which topped 40,000 units and by the Equinox (+13%), which had its best month ever. On the car side, the Sonic (+32%) also had its best month ever, but the other news was bad, particularly for the Malibu (-36%) and the Impala (-32%) — the latter still mostly the outgoing version.
The Sierra (+22%) rode the big-pickup wave, and the monstrous Yukon XL had a monster month, as sales more than doubled. The regular Yukon, however, was down (-28%), as were the big vans and the Terrain.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +14%
Ford came within 7000 units of frontrunner General Motors.
Powered by a buoyant pickup market — and incentives of some $5000 — the F-series had a giant month, cresting 70,000 units. Ford had other big winners in May, just not as big as the F-series. The Escape had its best-ever month and was the country’s bestselling SUV. The Fusion came close to 30,000 units, and the Focus wasn’t terribly far behind.
Its production problems fixed at last, the MKZ posted a big sales increase (+42%); all other Lincolns were down, except for the Navigator (+10%).
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +3%
Toyota had only a modest increase over last year, but last May was pretty big for the Japanese automaker, which was then just coming back to full strength after the tsunami.
The Camry was down slightly (-1%) but when you’re the bestselling passenger car, and move almost 40,000 units in a single month, who can complain? The elderly Corolla/Matrix (-12%) is finally slowing down but the Yaris (-50%) is really sinking. Meanwhile, the new Avalon more than tripled.
The new ES doubled, as did the not-really-new LS. Against that were drops for the IS (-29%), the RX (-18%), the LX (-10%), and the GX (-8%).
Once again, the FR-S was able to overcome sinking sales for all other Scion models, and once again the worst of those was the iQ (-41%).
CHRYSLER GROUP +11%
Chrysler was able to extend its winning ways in May. All divisions, save Chrysler, were ahead of last year.
With the 200 flat and the Town & Country up only slightly, a drop for the 300 (-18%) put the brand in negative territory.
Although the Chrysler 300 was down, the Charger was up (+23%), so too were the Durango (+24%), the Journey, and the Challenger (both +15%). But the biggest factor was the addition of the Dart.
The Grand Cherokee (+21%) and the Wrangler (+13%) were neck-and-neck for most popular Jeep, with the Wrangler just squeaking to victory. All other Jeeps were up at least a little, which allowed the brand to shrug off the sales lost with the departure of the Liberty.
The big Ram topped 30,000 units, and muscled into 6th place among all nameplates.
The Accord (+12%) maintained its number two spot among passenger cars, behind the Toyota Camry. The CR-V (+8%) enjoyed its best month ever, but that was likewise only good enough for second place among SUVs. The revamped Civic declined slightly (-10%) but the Fit was up (+20%), as were the Ridgeline, the Pilot, and the Odyssey.
The new RDX (+49%) is doing better than ever but the MDX has dropped off (-43%) in the selldown before the new model arrives. For the RLX, the good news is that sales are outpacing the RL by a factor of 5; the bad news is that the car still only sold 273 copies.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +25%
Nissan enjoyed the biggest increase of any of the major automakers, thanks to widely publicized price cuts for several Nissan models.
The new Pathfinder is still on the upswing, with sales triple the old model’s. The new Sentra shot up (+65%) and the Leaf suddenly sprouted, quadrupling its year-ago figure. There were laggards, however, including the Cube (-37%), the Maxima (-25%), the Murano (-31%), and the Titan (-35%).
The JXs was up 10% but otherwise it was all downhill sledding for Infiniti.
HYUNDAI – KIA +2%
Both Korean nameplates managed to do better than last year, but it’s clear that the period of easy market-share gains is over. For Hyundai, it was the brand’s second-best month ever; for Kia, it was the brand’s best May.
The Elantra was up by a third, and the new Santa Fe just beat last year, but all other Hyundais were down, although the brand cited low inventories.
The Optima, Rio, and Soul were in the black, while the Forte and the SUVs were down. The Cadenza just started arriving in dealerships and was not a significant factor.
The Jetta, Passat, and Beetle all did well, but the other VW nameplates did not.
Audi’s SUVs and the A5 drove the brand’s gains in May, while the volume A4 and A6 were flat.
Boxster and Cayman sales went from the double digits to the triple digits and the Cayenne jumped nearly 50%. Unfortunately, the Panamera dropped almost as far (-47%).
The XV Crosstrek added more than 5000 units to Subaru’s May total, and in the process outsold the Legacy. But that accounted for only half of the brand’s increase in May (the biggest of any carmaker). For the rest of the story, look to the new Forester (+38%), the Outback (+34%), and the BRZ (+151% on much smaller volume).
The 3-series zoomed ahead (+47%) and that combined with the arrival of the X1 — which in May was the most popular BMW SUV — gave BMW a nice sales gain last month.
The Countryman held steady but sales of the other Minis were down.
Mercedes-Benz, the brand, was able to outsell BMW in May but it needed the Sprinter in order to do it.
The SUVs were up, as were the C-class and the S-class. The E-class was down.
ForTwo sales popped in May.
The new Mazda6 jumped by 72%, but it still is only one-tenth the volume of the Toyota Camry. The Mazda3 and the Miata also scratched out gains, but not the Mazda2. The biggest increase of all went to the CX-5 (+79%).
The 60-series (+29%) joined the XC60 (+9%) in the plus column. All other Volvos were down.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +11%
In a reverse of the usual situation, Jaguar led the gains at JLR. The addition of the F-type was a factor but not a major one. The other three models all were up.
Land Rover +3%
The new Range Rover was the big gainer (+33%) while the LR2 (-45%) saw the biggest drop.
Mitsubishi was the only car company that did worse this May than last, a distinction it can ill afford. Don’t blame the Outlander Sport, though, it was up 79%.
TOP 10 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES IN MAY
1. Ford F-series 71,604
2. Chevrolet Silverado 43,283
3. Toyota Camry 39,216
4. Honda Accord 33,218
5. Nissan Altima 31,940
6. Dodge Ram 31,672
7. Honda Civic 30,268
8. Ford Fusion 29,553
9. Ford Escape 29,123
10. Toyota Corolla/Matrix 27,997