After a sluggish start to the year, auto sales came roaring back in May with General Motors, Chrysler, Toyota and Nissan all posting big gains.
Early estimates project the industry to have sold more than 1.5 million vehicles in the U.S. last month, up about 7% from May 2013. The strong sales — boosted by the five weekends in May and the Memorial Day holiday — put car manufacturers on pace to sell over 16 million vehicles this year. Automakers are headed for their best year since 2006.
"The industry is back to the level we expected at the beginning of the year," said Larry Dominique, executive vice president of TrueCar, an auto shopping company.
General Motors Co. dealers delivered 284,694 vehicles in May, up 13% compared with the same month a year earlier. It was the company's best May in seven years.
"May represents one of the strongest sales months of the year, as consumers take advantage of warm weather and the extended Memorial Day sales weekend," said Alec Gutierrez, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book. "Although transaction prices remain at record highs, shoppers have been able to offset rising prices with low-interest financing and affordable lease options for even those with less-than-perfect credit."
Ford Motor Co. sales totaled 254,084 vehicles in May, up 3% from a year earlier.
"It was a very good month for the industry. It started very solid. We had a very strong Memorial Day weekend," said John Felice, Ford's vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service.
Felice said he was encouraged by the pace of industry sales last month, especially after the slow start to the year.
Chrysler Group posted U.S. sales of 194,421 units, a 17% increase and the automaker's best May since 2007.
Chrysler is growing on the strength of its Jeep brand. Helped by a 58% gain over the prior year, Jeep had its best ever sales month in the U.S.
Japanese automakers also did well in the U.S. in May.
Toyota reported sales of 243,236 vehicles, an increase of 17% from the same period a year earlier.
"Industry sales in May soared as consumer confidence improved and demand for new vehicles continued to strengthen," said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager. "Toyota had its best month in six years, led by strong Camry, Corolla and hybrid sales."
Nissan sales in May were 135,934, an increase of 18.8%. It was a record May for Nissan. The month also was the best-ever for Nissan's Leaf electric car, with 3,117 units sold, an increase of 45.8% over the prior year.