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Pickups drive May rise in auto sales

Keywords: Tags  auto sales, General Motors, Kurt McNeil, Ford Motors, Ken Czubay, Toyota, Chrysler, Hyundai Kia

CHICAGO — The top-selling automakers in the United States sold nearly 1.25 million vehicles in May, a 7.8-percent improvement from a year earlier and a robust 12.3 percent higher than April’s total, an AMM analysis shows.

Industrywide, the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 15.3 million vehicles was better than April’s rate of 14.9 million and in line with first-quarter trends, IHS Automotive senior analyst Christopher Hopson said in an e-mail.

Trucks and luxury models had a good run last month, automakers said, although some of the month-on-month gain could be attributed to May’s extra selling day.

"Cadillac is growing faster than it has in almost 40 years, the pickup rebound is in full swing and we’re seeing strong retail demand for our crossover (vehicles)," said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations for General Motors Co. "These are all powerful signs that the gradual recovery in the economy is becoming more broad-based."

Truck sales by Detroit-based GM were up 15 percent vs. the same month last year, including a 23-percent increase in large pickups and a 30-percent jump in large sport utility vehicles. GM’s pickup inventory fell to 93 days at the end of May from 103 days a month earlier.

Ford Motor Co.’s sales of F-Series trucks, "fueled by construction growth and pent-up demand, reached their highest level in more than six years," said Kenneth M. Czubay, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service. Ford sold 71,604 F-Series pickups last month, a 31-percent increase vs. May 2012.

Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford plans to build 740,000 vehicles in the third quarter, up 10 percent from 673,000 vehicles in the third quarter of 2012 but down 7.5 percent from an anticipated 800,000 vehicles in the second quarter of this year.

Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler Group LLC said last month’s sales were its best May in six years, with Dodge Ram sales jumping 23.8 percent from a year ago.

Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. also reported higher pickup truck sales, its highest since August 2008.

South Korean brands Hyundai and Kia saw a combined 1.6-percent sales increase last month vs. May 2012. "Our plants continue to work at maximum capacity to meet record demand levels across our lineup," said John Krafcik, president and chief executive officer of Hyundai Motor America.

Year-to-date sales by the top seven automakers totaled 5.53 million vehicles, up 7.3 percent from 5.15 million in the first five months of last year, AMM analysis shows. Market share for the Detroit area’s Big Three automakers improved to 53.6 percent from 52.3 percent a year earlier, while Japanese and Korean brands’ share declined 0.6 and 0.8 percentage points, respectively, in the same comparison.

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