Pickups, SUVs power US May auto sales

Pickup trucks and SUVs drove strong gains in auto sales in the US market in May, with the market helped by a rebound in the construction industry, aut

Pickup trucks and SUVs drove strong gains in auto sales in the US market in May, with the market helped by a rebound in the construction industry, automakers said Monday.

Ford and Chrysler reported double-digit sales growth from May 2012, while the number-one maker, General Motors, racked up a more modest 3.1 percent gain, and 2.5 percent for Japan's Toyota.

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GM sold about 252,900 cars and trucks, with its luxury division, Cadillac, rocketing 39.9 percent from a year earlier at 13,800 units.

Sales of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickups grew 12 percent, with the largest models in both categories showing the most strength, GM said.

For the first five months of 2013, total sales reached 1,155,503 units, 8.3 percent higher than the same period last year.

Ford delivered nearly 246,600 vehicles in May, 14 percent higher than a year earlier, also driven largely by its pickup truck and SUV lines.

Pickups were up 30.6 percent from May 2012, with Ford crediting the surge in the construction industry, while Escape SUV sales gained 26.2 percent.

For the first five months of this year, Ford sold 1,026,833 vehicles, 13.9 percent more than the same period a year ago.

Chrysler, controlled by Italian giant Fiat, said sales of nearly 166,600 cars and trucks were up 11.0 percent from a year earlier, led by a 22 percent gain in Ram pickups and 21 percent rise in Grand Cherokee sales.

Chrysler sales for the first five months were 751,646, up 9.1 percent from a year earlier.

Toyota meanwhile came in with 207,952 cars and trucks sold in May.

Manufacturers were generally confident that the sales boom will continue throughout the year.

'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 Toyota group vice president Bill Fay in a statement.

'The five-year high in consumer confidence translated into especially strong retail sales and as the industry leader last month.'

But analysts warned that if the Federal Reserve begins to tighten its economic stimulus before the jobs market completely recovers, it could impact auto sales.

'Improving economic fundamentals in May point to more new-car sales growth but warning signs are on the horizon as well,' said Lacey Plache, chief economist at auto industry specialist Edmunds.com.

'While rising consumer confidence from increased wealth... should continue to bring car buyers to market, these wealth effects could taper off later this year if the Fed pulls back on its asset-buying programs which have been propping up stock prices and keeping interest rates low,' she said.

'What is really needed is a continued and even expanded labor market recovery to give car buyers greater means to make car payments.'

First Published Date: 04 Jun 2013, 12:16 PM IST

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