May auto sales up 2%, beat­ing ex­pec­ta­tions

Los Angeles Times - - COMPANY TOWN -

U.S. auto sales were stronger than ex­pected in May, boosted by Me­mo­rial Day pro­mo­tions and strong de­mand for new SUVs.

Sales rose 2% over May 2014 to more than 1.64 mil­lion cars and trucks, their fastest pace since July 2005, ac­cord­ing to Au­to­data Corp. An­a­lysts had ex­pected sales to fall slightly be­cause of lower sales to rental car com­pa­nies and other auto fleets.

Subaru led au­tomak­ers with a 12% sales gain. Gen­eral Mo­tors’ sales rose 3%, Fiat Chrysler was up 4% and Honda rose 1%.

All four au­tomak­ers ben­e­fited as buy­ers con­tin­ued a steady shift from cars into small and medium-size SUVs. Honda sold more than 6,300 HR-V small SUVs in the first two weeks it was on sale. Sales of the GMC Aca­dia SUV jumped 67%, while sales of the Jeep Chero­kee were up 23%. Sales of Subaru’s XV Crosstrek small SUV jumped 36%.

Long-strug­gling Volk­swa­gen sur­prised with an 8% sales gain thanks to its new Golf. Ford’s sales fell 1%. Nis­san and Toy­ota said sales were f lat, while Hyundai’s sales fell 10%.

May is typ­i­cally one of the big­gest sales months of the year, as buy­ers flush with tax re­turns look for­ward to sum­mer road trips.

Af­ter five years of blis­ter­ing growth af­ter the re­ces­sion, it’s get­ting in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for the in­dus­try to match those kinds of num­bers. U.S. sales are ex­pected to hit 17 mil­lion this year, near their his­toric peak of a decade ago, and au­tomak­ers will have to work harder to post big gains.

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