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May 2015 Auto Sales Keep Momentum Going with Strong Uptick

May 2015 Auto Sales Keep Momentum Going with Strong Uptick

By Philly Murtha, June 03, 2015

Demand for new cars and light trucks in the United States in May 2015 was more robust than anticipated--helped by warmer spring weather, longer-term loan deals, reasonable gas prices, and Memorial Day weekend sales events.

At 1.63 million, total sales were up by more than one percentage point from a year ago, even higher than the 1.59 million units projected by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive in a May auto sales forecast update. The average annual selling rate (SAAR) for May surpassed 17.7 million units. In addition, when totals are adjusted for one fewer selling day,* auto sales rose several points from May 2014.

Highlights: May 2015 Car Sales
Multi-line automakers posted mixed results in May. General Motors (+3%), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (+4%), Honda Motor Co. (+1.3%), and Volkswagen Group (+9%) posted single-digit gains from a year ago. However, Ford Motor Co. (-1.3%), Toyota Motor (-0.3%), Nissan North America (-0.8%), and Hyundai Motor (-3.8%) reported lower or flat sales in May. In addition, independent brands Subaru (+12.2%) and Mitsubishi (+31.7%) reported healthy gains, while Mazda deliveries were flat (-0.4%).

The major luxury brands continued to outperform the industry, including Acura (+16.1%), Audi (+11%), BMW (+4.7%), Mercedes-Benz (+12%), and Lexus (+10.2%).

Only a handful of brands posted steep declines, including Hyundai, Dodge, Fiat, and Scion.

Following are additional details regarding May 2015 auto sales for each major automaker:

American Honda--Deliveries in May increased 1.3% from a year ago. The sub-compact Fit (+82%) led car sales for Honda, with Accord sales off 18.3% and Civic sales down 4.5%. Honda's light-truck deliveries rose by double digits (+10.6%) boosted by the new HR-V small crossover SUV. Honda brand sales remained flat (-0.3%), while Acura posted a 16% gain with strong demand for the redesigned TLX midsize sedan.

BMW Group--BMW (+4.7%) retains the premium brand sales crown in May (31,003 unit sales). BMW posted double-digit gains for its 2 Series, 3 Series, and 4 Series models, and the X5 SAV also posted double-digit gains. Mini sales rose by 1.8%, netting a 4.3% increase overall for the BMW Group.

Daimler AG--Mercedes-Benz (+11.1%) sold 29,583 units in May, a company record for the month. The brand's Sprinter sales climbed 22.3% (but were not included in the brand's tally). C-Class sales soared 40% from a year ago, and sales of the CLA-Class doubled. Smart car sales fared better in May than in the same month a year ago (+21.5%).

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles--May was Jeep's best-ever sales month, according to the company. As in April, Chrysler (+31.9%) and Jeep (+13.5%) outpaced the industry with Chrysler 200 sales rising by more than 500%, with sales of the redesigned Jeep Cherokee and the Wrangler increasing most. Ram truck sales were up 12%, while Dodge and Fiat brands posted double-digit declines, which held down the group's sales climb.

Ford Motor Company--Lincoln's (+3.5%) higher sales--bolstered by the new MKC crossover SUV and full-size Navigator SUV--could not offset Ford Division's 1.5% dip, although the brand dominated in May with 240,912 unit sales. F-Series deliveries fell 9.7% to 61,870 units as Ford was stymied by limited production with the ramp-up of the redesigned aluminum-body trucks. Redesigned models performed well--Ford Edge (+34%), 2016 Explorer (+24%), Mustang (+39.5%)--while Fusion and Taurus sedan sales suffered.

General Motors--May sales advanced 3% at GM, with all brands--except Cadillac--posting increases. Light-truck brand GMC (+12.5%) posted the highest gain, largely due to sales of its Acadia and Canyon models. Chevrolet (+1.4%) and Buick (+0.5%) were up, although they also relied heavily on stronger sales of trucks and SUVs. Chevrolet pickup sales climbed 30% from a year ago, and crossover SUVs--Equinox (+30%) and Traverse (+15%)--were popular. The all-new Trax (5,707 unit sales) compact SUV also contributed to Chevy's gain. Buick fared well with the Enclave and Encore, each securing double-digit sales gains. Although Cadillac sales dipped 1.9% from the same month last year, sales of the SRX (+23%) and redesigned Escalade (+6%) increased for the luxury brand.

Hyundai Group--Sales in May slipped by 3.8% even though Kia posted its best month ever with sales of 62,433 units. Sales of the Sedona midsize van surged, and Kia reported gains for the Sorento and Sportage crossover SUVs. However, the Hyundai brand posted a 10% decline to 63,610 units from last year's May sales record, according to company officials.

Jaguar Land Rover--Overall, sales of Jaguar and Land Rover models increased 12.8% in May.

Mazda--Deliveries of the new Mazda 6 rose 2.2% and were the highest for any May since 2006, according to the company. However, the Mazda brand as a whole posted a 0.4% sales dip since sales gains for the high-volume CX-5 and CX-9 models could not offset a steep decline in sales of the Mazda 2.

Mitsubishi--May 2015 sales were the highest for May in seven years with record deliveries for the Mirage and Outlander Sport crossover SUV.

Nissan Group--Deliveries were down 0.8%. Group sales could not be offset by a gain in sales of Infiniti (+0.9%). One bright spot for the automaker is that the Nissan brand (-1%) set a May sales record for crossover utilities and trucks (+17.6%). Sales of the Murano and Rogue crossover SUVs climbed in double digits, while sales of the exotic GT-R were up 18.1%. Gains were also posted for the Armada large SUV and Titan large pickup.

Subaru--Record May sales included highest-ever May deliveries for the Forester, Outback, and XV Crosstrek. Legacy sales advanced 63%.

Toyota Group--Sales for Toyota Group on the whole were flat (-0.3%) and mainly supported by strong SUV deliveries--particularly RAV4's double-digit increase--and a 10.2% gain from Lexus with 29,671 unit sales, including 8,000 RX-Series deliveries. Tundra and Tacoma pickup sales outpaced industry gains. Nearly 44,000 Camrys were sold, but that was down 11.6% from May 2014 and Corolla sales also dipped. Prius hybrid deliveries continued to decline (-27%). Demand for Scion models (-22%) also slumped.

Volkswagen Group--Sales for the VW Group were up 9%, resulting in one of the best May performances among corporate automakers. Sales were driven by an 11% advance from Audi and its A3 and Q3 crossover SUV and an 8% gain from the VW brand with its strong VW Golf family. Porsche sales slipped 7.4% in May.

Volvo--Sales in May (5,023 unit sales) were slightly higher than in April 2015 for the Swedish brand owned by Geely Group.

*Sales percentage changes are unadjusted. May 2015 had 26 selling days while May 2014 had 27.

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