Born on warm spring breezes perfumed by the sweet smell of incentive spending and buoyed by a quirk of the calendar that put five weekends in the month, auto sales surged in May. The annualized sales rate soared past the 16-million-unit mark, reaching 16.8 million. Pickups, SUVs, and luxury cars were particularly strong. Total industry sales for the month were 11% ahead of last year.
Although no one is predicting a slowdown this summer, it’s probably unrealistic to expect that same kind of jump next month, unless someone can figure out a way to add a fifth weekend into June. Which doesn’t sounds like a bad idea. <em—joe lorio
MAY 2014 SALES RESULTS, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS MAY 2013
GENERAL MOTORS +13%
New-car shoppers continue to shrug off the unending GM recall news, driving sales gains at all four divisions. In fact, the company is now predicted to gain market share this year. In May, though, GM’s fleet sales grew faster than its retail sales. Overall, the total was GM’s best in nearly six years.
The Encore baby crossover doubled, while the Regal was up by half. All other Buicks declined.
The biggest Caddy, the Escalade, made the biggest move in May (+45%). The SRX (+27%) and the CTS (+18%) also helped push the brand into the black, despite declines for the ATS (-23%) and the XTS (-19%).
At Chevrolet, cars actually increased more than trucks, despite an uptick for the Silverado (+8%). The Impala (+23%), the Camaro (+30%), and the Cruze (+41%) enjoyed a big jump. Those models were bookended by the Spark, which doubled, and the new Corvette, which tripled.
The new Sierra (+14%) again had a greater increase than the Silverado.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +3%
Lincoln was back on track in May and several core Ford cars had a big month, which allowed Ford to beat its strong year-ago figures. The company claims to be reducing F-series incentives, so as not to deplete inventory before the new truck arrives.
The F-series (-4%) is starting to taper, but the Fusion (+15%) and Escape (+10%) set monthly records. The Explorer (+26%) had its best month since its body-on-frame heyday, in 2005. Notable negatives included the C-Max (-24%), the Edge (-20%), and the Focus (-13%).
The new MKC compact crossover started trickling into dealerships, and immediately outsold the MKT, 677 to 503. The bigger factor behind Lincoln’s rebound, however, was the MKX (+31%).
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +17%
Toyota gobbled up market share, with sales soaring to their highest level in six years. Lexus actually outpaced the Toyota division, reflecting the strong luxury market.
The Camry (+26%) roared ahead, selling nearly 50,000 units and passing the Chevy Silverado to become the number two nameplate overall (behind the Ford F-series). The Camry was easily the bestselling passenger car, beating the next-best Honda Accord by nearly 10,000 units. The Corolla (+31%) was the bestselling small car, but it was a much tighter race, as it nosed past the Honda Civic by only 522 units. There was little to disrupt the happiness in Toyota-land; the weakest performance was turned in by the giant Sequoia (-11%).
The new IS and the GX again more than doubled their year-ago volume, while the LS (-30%) took a ride down.
The not-too-encouraging status quo at Scion: The tC (+22%) is the only model making any significant headway, while the iQ (-54%) circles the drain.
CHRYSLER GROUP +17%
Chrysler hit a milestone of fifty months of uninterrupted year-over-year sales gains. Once again, Jeep and Ram trucks were the major drivers, while Dodge was just about flat and the Chrysler division was down.
The 200 new-model changeover dragged down the total for Chrysler, which won’t be fully stocked with the new version until July. At least the Town & Country was up (+37%).
Dodge wasn’t up by much, but it was enough to claim a best May performance since 2007. The winding down of the Avenger (-43%) is a major blow, but the Dart was up (+16%). It, together with the Durango (+28%), the Grand Caravan (+10%), and the Journey (+33%) managed to offset the lost Avenger volume.
Jeep topped 70,000 units for the first time ever, led by the new Cherokee, the Grand Cherokee, and the Wrangler (still the brand’s best seller).
The big Ram pickup didn’t come close to the Chevy Silverado this month, but a 17% sales increase over last year was still pretty good.
The 500L is keeping Fiat in positive territory despite softening demand for the regular 500 (-18%).
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +19%
Nissan set another monthly sales record in May. Nearly all Nissan division’s core products are recently redesigned, and that’s reflected in their sales figures.
Where did Nissan’s sales gain come from? Sentra (+75%), Juke (+33%), Leaf (+46%), Altima (+13%), Versa (+31%), Rogue (8%), NV (+52%), NV200 (+253%). Better, maybe, to ask, where did it not come from? Cube (-23%), GT-R (-18%), Titan (-17%), Pathfinder (-15%), and Quest (-12%).
The EX more than doubled (+123%), which sounds better than it is, with only 265 cars sold. Meanwhile, the new Q50 is doing the real heavy lifting.
AMERICAN HONDA +9%
Honda finally had its first big monthly increase this year. Acura, however, remains stuck in neutral, although it blamed low inventories for the slowdown in TL and TSX sales.
The Accord (+19%) was the number-two passenger car (behind the Camry), and in fourth place among all nameplates. The Civic (also +19%) was, similarly, the number-two small car (behind the Corolla), and in the number seven spot overall. The CR-V (+19%) was the bestselling SUV in the land, but the Pilot (-16%) and the Ridgeline (-12%) declined.
Acura SUV sales were up by a third, almost the exact same percentage by which its car sales fell. In May, Acura SUVs outsold its passenger cars by better than 2 to 1. The TL and TSX were down by roughly half, as dealers await the new TLX. Meanwhile, the new RLX crept up 19%, but the ILX was down (-5%). Oh, and 5 ZDXs were sold.
HYUNDAI – KIA +9%
Both Hyundai and Kia claimed record sales last month, so does it really matter that Kia bested the overall industry’s growth rate while Hyundai did not?
The new Santa Fe shot up by half, while the not-so-new Tucson grew sales by 22%. On the car side, the luxury sedans did well—Genesis (+24%) and Equus (+26%), but not the near-luxury Azera (-23%).
The Optima (+10%) and the Soul (+27%) both had their best month ever. Other good news came from the Sportage (+49%) and the Cadenza (+112%). The Rio (-24%) was a laggard.
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP -3%
The Volkswagen Group continues to struggle—or, more accurately, Volkswagen of America continues to struggle. The rest of the Group is doing pretty well.
You know things are bad when the best news is a 1% increase for the Tiguan. Otherwise, it was a sea of negative numbers for VW: Beetle (-27%), Jetta (-13%), Passat (-13%), CC (-20%). Sure, the new Golf will help, but it won’t fix everything.
The new A3 added 2261 vehicles to Audi’s total, but there was other growth as well: A6 (+22%), A7 (+23%), Q7 (+15%), Q5 (+14%), even A4 (+6%). The big A8 suffered the biggest drop (-27%).
The Macan zoomed onto the scene and immediately challenged the Cayenne (-27%) for the title of bestselling Porsche: 1263 units to 1294.
The Forester (+41%) continues to power ahead, as Subaru posts yet another year-over-year increase. The only clouds in the sky: the Legacy (-31%) and the Outback (-5%). Oh wait, new versions of both are about to arrive. Never mind.
BMW GROUP +13%
BMW division passed Mercedes-Benz in May.
Which BMW model posted the biggest increase in May? The 1- /2-series (+50%)? Nope. The new X5 (+59%)? Nope. It was the X3 (+168%). Some of that, however, might have come at the expense of the X1 (-64%).
The Countryman (+31%) shot up, but the standard Mini (-18%) languishes while customers await the arrival of the new version.
The new S-class (+83%) accounts for pretty much all the growth in the high-luxury segment. The CLA added 1214 units, but unfortunately the C-class (-34%) fell by more than that. Mercedes SUVs are all up except for the big GL (-4%), which may have lost a few sales to the shiny new Escalade.
After bouncing up in April, Smart dropped back down in May.
Mazda actually broadened its market share in May, growing at more than twice the rate of the industry overall. Double-digit gains came from the Mazda2 (+64%), the Mazda3 (+20%), the Mazda6 (+39%), and the CX-5 (+30%). Warm weather has not helped the Miata (-21%), however.
It’s not just the Mirage. Mitsubishi’s new subcompact added 1700 units to the company’s total, but the Outlander (+140%) and the Outlander Sport (+24%) made a contribution as well.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +17%
The F-Type outsold the XF (-34%) and the XJ (-36%), which is not how it’s supposed to work.
Land Rover +28%
The Range Rover Evoque (+59%) and the new Range Rover Sport (+35%) were the driving force behind May’s sales growth.
Volvo wilted where others flourished. All models were down, even the 60 series (-14%) and the XC60 (-19%).
Tesla’s total of 2350 was down slightly from last year. A sign of saturation in Santa Monica?
The newly enlarged Maserati lineup totaled 1144 cars in May.
TOP 10 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES IN MAY
1. Ford F-series 68,520
2. Toyota Camry 49,584
3. Chevrolet Silverado 46,648
4. Honda Accord 39,637
5. Dodge Ram 37,131
6. Toyota Corolla/Matrix 36,611
7. Honda Civic 36,089
8. Nissan Altima 36,053
9. Ford Fusion 33,881
10. Honda CR-V 32,430