May Was A Boon For The Industry

Porsche-AThe past month was the best May in the U.S. for many automakers in many years. Ford saw its best May retail sales since 2005, with sales up 9%, with its SUV lineup generating a 15% increase. Ford's Fusion posted its best-ever May. 

Nissan, which has lowered its transaction prices, saw big increases in sales volume this month. The company reported a May sales record of 114,457 deliveries, an increase of 24.7%. The company’s Nissan division (Infiniti is the Nissan Motors’ luxury arm) saw sales up 31.2% -- a record. Jose Munoz, SVP for sales and marketing, Nissan, said the revamps of Altima, Pathfinder and Sentra combined grabbed a 64.6% increase in May.

General Motors reported that sales are up 3%, as it dropped fleet sales by 10%. Overall, sales of GM trucks and SUVs were up 15% versus a year ago, including a 30% increase for large SUVs. Chevrolet Equinox had its best month ever. The Equinox has now posted 17 consecutive monthly sales increases. While Chevrolet was up 5.4%, GMC rose 11.5%, and Buick notched a 9.9% increase.

Chrysler had its best May sales volume in six years, posting an 11% increase compared with May last year. Both Ram and Dodge posted their best month since around 2007. For Subaru, it was the best month in its U.S. history. 

Jesse Toprak, head of industry analysis for auto research and marketing site, says a big May story is trucks, which performed remarkably well -- largely because of returning vitality in housing, and a resurgence in business. Ram posted its best May since 2007; Ford F-150 had its strongest May since 2005; and Chevrolet saw a 23% increase for large pickups. "We are seeing more and more small businesses coming to market," he says. "Generally, the industry overall benefited from a perfect storm of lower incentives, and higher transaction prices." 

Porsche posted its best-ever month, and May was also good for Audi, which saw a 15% jump in sales versus last year. Cadillac’s sales were up 36.6% for its biggest increase since 1976, and Mercedes-Benz, which saw an 8.3% increase in sales volume. 

"Luxury buyers invest in the stock market, and we have seen record numbers there, so that's a correlating factor," says Toprak. "A lot of this has to do just with consumers in this segment generally feeling better about the economy. And there are also a lot of new products." 

Leasing has also become a structural factor benefiting luxury because lease offers for luxury vehicles have become competitive with the mass market, notes Toprak, who points out that a quarter of new vehicle sales now are done with lease deals. "Over 50% of luxury sales are leased, and for some brands it's over 65%. In Los Angeles BMW's lease volume is 70% or higher."

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