As Weather Warms, May Auto Sales Sizzle

Buyers come out in droves for new vehicles.

by on Jun.02, 2015

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class led the brand to an 11.1% sales increase in May.

While May auto sales were expected to be strong, the overall thought was that sales would be down a bit due to one less selling day; however, new car buyers came out in force and, in the process, ensured several sale streaks remained intact.

The early predictions called for overall sales to drop 1%, but several estimates have them coming in as high 1.5% over the previous May’s results.

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Four automakers extended runs of consecutive months of increased sales in May: Fiat Chrysler with 62 months, Audi at 53 months, Subaru with 42 months and Mercedes-Benz, which has a much shorter streak of just five months.

Mercedes enjoyed an 11.1% increase over year-ago figures with C-,E- and M-Class leading the way. C-Class led the three with a 40.3% increase a year-over-year basis. The German maker kept the pressure on its top competitor, BMW, which saw sales increase 4.7%. The increase was smaller, but the Bavarians outsold Mercedes 31,003 to 29,583 units.

The Audi A3 helped the German brand to its 53 month in a row of increased sales.

The positive results for the battle of luxury behemoths are a reflection of the strength of the market.

“The U.S. light vehicle market in May had one of its best-selling months since the Great Recession,” said Charles Chesbrough, Senior Principal Economist, IHS Automotive. “May is generally a strong month, with consumers flush with cash from tax returns, and upcoming summer vacation trips spurring strong demand, and this May was no exception. Although economic growth has been relatively weak in recent quarters, many parts of the economy remain strong and this will support a robust auto market through the summer.”

That strength allowed Audi to keep its momentum going in May. Its sales mirrored those of Mercedes with an 11% increase, which resulted in the second-best month for the brand since it hit U.S. shores in 1970. Audi’s enjoyed a strong 2015 in the U.S. with sales up 11.7% through May at 75,353 vehicles. The big sellers for Audi? The new A3 and S3.

“A year after launching the new A3 models, we are seeing payoff from our bold decision to reimagine a key component of the Audi lineup and take advantage of a luxury car segment poised to take off,” said Scott Keogh, president, Audi of America. “The record sales for the A3 and S3 sedans, along with the A3 Cabriolet, show this was a risk well worth taking. And we aren’t done yet with the all-new A3 Sportback e-tron coming this fall as the first plug-in Audi.”

The 2016 Honda HR-V enjoyed a strong debut with more than 6,000 units sold last month.

(May vehicle sales expected to be strong. For more, Click Here.)

The holder of the longest streak, Fiat Chrysler, reported a 4% increase compared with sales in May 2014, making it the group’s best May sales since 2005. The Chrysler, Jeep and Ram Truck brands each posted year-over-year sales gains in May compared with the same month a year ago. The Chrysler brand’s 32% increase was the largest sales gain of any FCA brand during the month. Jeep sales were also up 14%, offsetting a decline in Fiat sales.

Honda rode its new HR-V and Acura to a positive May, which saw car sales act as an overall drag for the company. Honda’s best seller, the Civic sedan, was down 4.5%. But sales of the Acura RDX umped 24% and the new ILX rose 43.5%, leading to a small improvement of 1.3% for May for American Honda.

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Conversely, Toyota’s U.S. sales slid just a bit – 0.3% – last month. Lexus and its SUV paced the automaker to its small gain with an increase of 23% in May. Toyota’s SUVs and trucks also posted increases, but they were offset by a 1% by the Toyota division and a 22% slide by Scion. Despite the flat result, Toyota laid claim to being the biggest retail seller of vehicles in the U.S.

“Strong May results boosted the industry to the best sales pace since last summer,” said Bill Fay, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager. “Toyota Division light trucks reported a best ever May, helping Toyota to over 200,000 units for the month.”

In addition, other makers reporting increases included: Mitsubishi (32%), Subaru (12%) and GM (3%) and Infiniti (0.9%). The companies with declines were: Porsche (7.4%), Mazda (0.4%), Ford (1%) and Nissan (1%).

The analysts at Kelley Blue Book reported the estimated average transaction price for light vehicles in the United States was $33,363 in May 2015. New car prices have increased by $1,363 (up 4.3%) from May 2014, although they were down $130, or 0.4%, compare with April.

(To see more about Ford’s expected summer launch of Sync 3, Click Here.)

“With the national average price of gasoline down nearly a dollar per gallon on average from one year ago, truck and SUV demand remains strong, elevating average transaction prices, especially for domestic automakers, in May,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “We also saw incentives spending remain nearly flat in May, which shows the strength of the overall new-car market.”

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One Response to “As Weather Warms, May Auto Sales Sizzle”

  1. Jorge says:

    It’s interesting that even with the U.S. economy stalled on recovery, many folks have the means and desire to purchase new automotive toys. Unfortunately it will take a lot more than new vehicle sales to fix the economy.

    FCA has reportedly stopped or delayed a dozen new car model updates/projects with their debt climbing and a desperate search for a buyer.

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