Small cars fuel slow May retail sales as truck sales fall

Jun 2, 2011

General Motors dealers in the United States reported a 9% increase in retail sales compared to May 2010, propelled by the company’s lineup of fuel-efficient passenger cars and crossovers. Overall, however, total sales at GM declined 1% on lower fleet volume.

Sales of GM’s large pickup trucks dropped 14% and crossover demand slipped 1 percent.

For May 2011, Chevrolet Cruze had its best retail sales since its launch, as Chevy dealers reported 18,996 retail deliveries. The GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox compact crossovers saw a combined retail sales increase of 58% during the month. Passenger car and crossover retail sales also rose substantially, up 32% and 17%, respectively.

Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon XL fell by 16%.

“Average U.S. gasoline prices peaked at $3.97 a gallon in May before falling, but the quick run-up in pump prices was enough to scare some new shoppers,” wrote David Phillips of Automotive News.

‘A number of consumers continue to wait to see where fuel prices are going to net out and stabilize over the long term before they make a purchase decision,’ said Don Johnson, GM’s head of U.S. sales operations. 1We expect that fuel prices will continue to be volatile.’”

Ford said car sales rose 4% in May, but truck deliveries slid 7%, with F-Series pickup volume off 15%.

Even with May 2011 Jeep sales up 55% over May 2010, Chrysler’s overall year-over-year sales slid 21%.

Kia Motors America’s growth trend continued in May posted its best-ever monthly sales, a 53.4% increase from May 2010, and a 2.4% increase over the previous record set in April 2011. The Korean carmaker’s year-to-date sales were up 44.8% over 2010, while the brand’s U.S. market share climbed to an all-time high on the strength of May sales. The U.S.-built Sorento was Kia’s best-selling vehicle for the 17th consecutive month.

Audi reported its fifth-consecutive record-setting month for 2011 with the best May U.S. sales in company history. Last month, demand for Audi vehicles increased 13.6% over May 2010, marking the third-best month in Audi of America history.

The strong May 2011 results were buoyed by a significant buyer response to the all-new 2012 Audi A7; the Audi A8 flagship sedan also performed favorably in May 2011.

Honda and Toyota, still struggling from the March Japan natural disasters, saw May 2011 drops of U.S. sales of 23% and 33%, respectively compared to May 2011. Toyota’s lexus brand is off 45% from a year ago.