By Alisa Priddle, Detroit Free Press –
DETROIT — Japanese automakers came roaring back in May, even as Detroit’s carmakers held their own.
Toyota led the field with a jump in May of 87 percent on sales of 202,973 vehicles.
The increase reflects a return to normalcy for the Japanese automaker, which saw its inventory cut drastically a year ago in the wake of a disastrous earthquake and tsunami.
Sales of the Camry more than doubled to 39,571 in May while sales of Prius more than tripled to 21,477.
“Our growth has been driven by the success of our new products, led by Camry and Prius family, part of the most aggressive product launch in our history,” said Bob Carter, Toyota group vice president and general manager.
“Toyota, as expected, posted a stunning year-over-year percentage increase. Remember where Toyota was a year ago, however — largely without much product to sell because of the earthquake and tsunami,” said analyst Michelle Krebs of Edmunds.com. “Ford held the No. 2 sales spot over Toyota, a position that looked to be at risk.”
Honda sold 133,997 units, an increase of 47.6 percent from a year ago. Nissan was up 20.5 percent for the month, which had 26 selling days compared with only 24 a year ago.
Detroit’s automakers also had a strong May, even though a year ago, they were selling everything they could make to compensate for the shortages among Japanese automakers.
Volkswagen, Hyundai and Kia, three companies with aggressive growth in the U.S., also reported increases of over a year ago. But while VW’s 38,657 sales were up 28.4 percent for the best May since 1973, Hyundai’s increase was a more modest 13 percent. Kia saw sales grow 7.4 percent, a cooling of its torrid sales growth.
Chrysler continued its hot streak, selling 150,041 vehicles last month, or 30 percent more than the year before, to record its best May since 2007. Ford reported a 13 percent increase for the month on sales of 216,267 vehicles, and GM sold 245,256 vehicles in May, 11 percent more than the year before.
For Chrysler, this marks the 26th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.
Every brand increased sales and Fiat set a new monthly record with 4,003 Fiat 500s sold, which is a 128 percent increase from last year’s results.
“In spite of a tremendous amount of global economic uncertainty, the U.S. new vehicle sales industry continues to power ahead,” said Reid Bigland, head of the Dodge brand and U.S. sales.
“Our May sales increased 30 percent and represented our 26th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth. We are also in the process of adding production capacity as quickly as possible to meet strong demand for our products,” Bigland said.
Fueling its success are record sales of the Jeep Wrangler, up 44 percent to 14,454 sold, and Dodge Challenger, which sold 4,816 for a 41 percent increase.
The Dodge Ram remains solid with a 29 percent increase in sales ahead of the 2013 model with a new V-6 engine, which dealers can start ordering in July.
The increased sales were achieved despite a 3.4 percent drop in incentive spending in May from the previous month, according to website TrueCar.com.
Ford increased its incentive spending in May after cutting back by about $300 in April.
“Ford posted solid gains across our fresh lineup of new cars, utilities and trucks in May,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service.
“Fuel efficiency continues to be a top purchaser driver, and Ford’s wide range of fuel-efficient products delivered again,” Czubay said.
F-Series pickups jumped 29 percent in May while the Fusion sedan saw its best-ever May with 26,857 sold for a 9 percent gain. Ford is selling off the old model in anticipation of an all-new 2013 Fusion coming this fall.
“Ford bumped up its incentives in May, despite previous insistence on holding out for price,” said Krebs. “The Fiesta still can’t gain its footing and seems to be losing to the Focus. Ford is doing a tricky dance of selling down two of its very high volume models — the Escape and Fusion — to make way for the new models.”
As for GM, “a little bit of extra money on the hood seemed to help GM in May,” Krebs said, as Edmunds.com estimates GM’s incentives were up about 5 percent from last May and about 2 percent from April.
Don Johnson, GM’s head of U.S. sales, said on a conference call that year-to-date incentive spending is flat.
Buick and GMC gained 19 percent while high-volume Chevrolet sales were up 10 percent.