By Jeff Gilbert

DETROIT (WWJ) – Car companies are posting some eye popping sales numbers for May, lead by resurgent Japanese brands, and a strong performance by the “Detroit Three.”

“This is happening with no outside intervention, no crazy incentives,” said analyst Jesse Toprak of  “It is the industry healing its wounds.”

Toyota lead the way with an 87.3 percent sales increase.  Chrysler lead the domestics with a 30 percent sales hike.

While there were more selling days this year, and May of 2011 was a very weak month, analysts say underneath it all is an auto industry that’s doing well, despite an uncertain economy.

“When we look at the volume, and take out all the extraordinary factors, we’re looking at a May that is a strong month,” says analyst Jeff Schuster of LMC Automotive.  “The selling rate is consistent with what we’ve seen around the first part of the year, and consistent with the level of recovery we have been expecting and have been seeing.”

Schuster says even though Toyota’s bottom line number was inflated, the company has made a solid turnaround.

“They were looking at an older lineup last year.  Now you have some new products for Toyota.  You have full inventory.  They obviously are letting that come through in their sales numbers.”

Nissan is the only other Japanese carmaker to report.  Their sales are up 20.5 percent.

Chrysler’s 30 percent sales increase again lead the domestics.

“In spite of a tremendous amount of global economic uncertainty, the U.S. new vehicle sales industry continues to power ahead,” said Reid Bigland, President and CEO – Dodge Brand and Head of U.S. Sales.

It was a strong month for the small Fiat 500.  But sales of the Chrysler 300 big car were up 140 percent.

At GM, the sales increase was 11 percent.  Sales operations manager Don Johnson says the easing of gas prices helped larger vehicles.

“We’ve said this all along, but as gas prices come down and/or stabilize, we see people come back into the truck market.”

Overall, Johnson says GM is glad to see steady sales growth.

“It was our best sales month in 33 months.  So the best since August of 2009.  So, we’re feeling pretty good about that.”

Ford also had a solid May.  It’s sales were up 13 percent.

“Ford posted solid gains across our fresh lineup of new cars, utilities and trucks in May,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “Fuel efficiency continues to be a top purchaser driver, and Ford’s wide range of fuel-efficient products delivered again.”

Hyundai reported its sales were up 13 per cent.  Volkswagen sales are up 28 percent.

Analysts like’s Jesse Toprak expect sales to remain in growth mode over the rest of the year.  Although he does worry about a high unemployment rate, and the recent weakening of the stock market.

“As long as we don’t have a big meltdown, we’re going to be over 14 million.  It’s going to be a healthy level of recovery.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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