Auto sales rose in May, helped by stronger consumer confidence and a
rebound in home sales and construction.
General Motors Co., the nation's largest automaker, said its U.S. sales rose 3.1% in May to 252,894 vehicles compared with the same month a year earlier. It was the company's best month since September 2008.
"The gradual recovery in the economy is becoming more broad-based," said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations.
Most of GM's gain came from increased sales at its Cadillac luxury brand, which has introduced several new models over the past year and is now growing at its fastest rate in decades.
Ford Motor Co. said its May sales rose 14% to 246,585 vehicles, its best May since 2006.
Toyota Motor Corp. said its U.S. sales rose 2.5% to 207,952 vehicles in May compared with the same month a year earlier.
"New vehicle sales are heating up along with the weather, and solid May results coupled with an excellent Memorial Day weekend provide great momentum as we move into the summer selling season," said Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager of Toyota's sales arm.
Pushed up by strong sales of full-size pickup trucks, the average price of a vehicle last month was $30,978, according to estimates by auto price information company TrueCar.com, up $618 or 2% from May 2012 and $174, or 0.6%, from April of this year.
"Consumer confidence is the highest it's been since 2007, helping keep demand for new vehicles very stable, and moving transaction prices upward overall," said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for TrueCar.
Recovering housing and construction industries are fueling the resurgence of demand for large trucks, Toprak said.
Chrysler Group, for example, said sales of its Ram truck brand rose 22%, its best May in six years. Sales of Ford's F-Series truck were up 30.6% during the month. Sales of Chevrolet's Silverado pickup rose more than 25% in May.
Overall, Chrysler said its U.S. sales rose 11% to 166,596 vehicles last month. It was the automaker's highest sales since 2007.
"We continue to see strong retail sales throughout our product lineup as eight Chrysler Group vehicles set sales records in May, including best sales ever by the Jeep Wrangler and Compass," said Reid Bigland, Chrysler's U.S. sales chief.
Nissan said its U.S. sales, including its Infiniti luxury brand, rose 24.7% to 114,457 vehicles in May. It was the Nissan brand's best May ever in the U.S. but Infiniti sales were down by more than 25%.
Subaru of America said it logged sales of 39,892 vehicles last month, a 34% gain and its best month ever in the U.S.
Sales of the Volkswagen brand fell 1.7% to 38,013 vehicles last month.
"We saw a pretty steady pace throughout the month. That was reassuring concerning consumer demand across the country," said Jonathan Browning, chief executive of Volkswagen of America.
Total U.S. light vehicle sales rose about 8% from the same month last year to more than of 1.4 million vehicles, according to Michael Ward, an analyst with Sterne Agee. That is the equivalent to a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of about 15.2 million vehicles, up from a 13.9 million sales rate in the comparable period last year.
"The strength in new car sales is validated by strong retail sales, proving that consumers are buying, not just shopping," said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
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