By Jeff Gilbert

AUBURN HILLS (WWJ) – Car and truck sales numbers are roaring back in May, with strong pickup sales leading the way.

GM posted a three per cent sales increase, Chrysler 11 percent, Ford 14 percent.Fr

“From a volume standpoint, May is a big month, one of the biggest in the year,” says senior analyst Jessica Caldwell.  “The fact that we were able to have an elevated sales number, which would lead to an elevated sales rate, is really good news for the auto industry.”

Ford analyst Erich Merkle said it’s all about new products and pickup trucks.

“F-series sales are up 31 percent.  This is the first time we’ve broken through the 70,000 mark since March of 2007.”

New products, including the Fusion, Escape and MKZ also helped propel Ford’s numbers.  The Escape had its best month ever, with sales up 26 percent over last May.

Pickup sales also helped GM.  It’s Sierra and Silverado were up 23 percent in May, as the company clears out old models, preparing for the arrival of new pickups.

GM Sales Operations Manager Kurt McNeil says the new pickups, and other new products, should make this a good summer for the company.

“The economy continues to steadily improve.  These new products that we’re bringing to market are doing extremely, extremely well.”

GM’s sales were the best since September of 2008.  Cadillac sales were up 40 percent.

Kelly Blue Book analyst Alec Gutierrez says Cadillac has been helped by new products–like the small ATS and large XTS–which are doing well in areas like Southern California, where imports are normally strong.

“They are having tremendous success in increasing market share in these once tough to penetrate markets.   If Cadillac keeps doing what they are doing, and domestics in general keep doing what they are doing, they’re going to continue to find success on the coasts.”

Chrysler’s 11 percent sales increase continues trend of solid sales numbers.

“Our best May sales in six years enabled us to extend our sales streak to 38-consecutive months of year-over-year sales gains,” said Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales. “We continue to see strong retail sales throughout our product lineup as eight Chrysler Group vehicles set sales records in May, including best sales ever by the Jeep® Wrangler and Compass.”

Chrysler needed the strong Wrangler and Compass sales because Jeep is without a mid-size product, as they have stopped making the Liberty and the new Cherokee won’t be in dealerships for a few months.

But, Chrysler–like its domestic competitors–sold a lot of pickup trucks in May.

“The Ram truck brand sales were up 24 percent in May,” said Chrysler spokesman Ralph Kisiel. “That was our largest percentage sales gain of any Chrysler group brand in May.”

The Dodge brand saw a sales increase of 23 percent. All other Chrysler brands were in single digits.

Chrysler estimates that the industry will have an annual sales rate of 15.5 million in May, which would be stronger than analysts were expecting.

Nissan, meanwhile, says its sales were up 25 percent.  Analysts say that’s on the heels of a price cut, along with several new products.

“Nissan taking advantage, maybe of some fluctuation in the Yen, looking to be more competitive in their pricing,” said analyst Jeff Schuster of LMC Automotive.  “That’s certainly assisting sales as well.”

Toyota sales rose 2.5 percent.  Honda was up 5 percent.  Volkswagen sales are up two percent.

WWJ AutoBeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert will be updating this story with the latest sales numbers throughout the day. For instant updates, follow Jeff’s Twitter Feed (@jefferygilbert)


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