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May Sales Surprisingly Bad

Forecast May U.S. LV SAAR: 14.56 million units.
Actual May SAAR: 13.73 million units
Total U.S. May deliveries: 1,330,197.

It's possible that the slow progress in creating jobs - U.S. unemployment rose to 8.2% from 8.1% in the latest government release - is more relevant to the auto market than previously thought. With all companies reporting, May U.S. Light Vehicle sales finished well below expectations. The 1,330,197 light vehicle deliveries translate into a 13.75 million unit SAAR, the worst of the year, and well below consensus projections and WardsAuto's own forecast.

While daily sales were up 16% vs same-month 2011,  year-ago sales were driven down by the Japanese tsunami-related dearth of supply.

Up to this point, slow overal economic growth and weak employment numbers have done little to slow the auto market's growth in 2012. And industry talk, even toward the end of the month, reflected expectations of a big extended-Memorial Day selling period, and reports of increased incentive spending also pointed toward larger volume sales.

But now it looks like incentives may have been more of a defensive tactic to keep sales from slipping even further.

Chrysler was first out of the gate reportng a 20% year-over-year increase in sales, on volume sales of 150,041 cars and light trucks. The growth in DSR was below expectations and recent trend, which has been closer to 30% for several months. Chrysler's yr/yr uptick was the company's smallest in 12 months.

Ford reported daily sales up just 3.9%, while GM came in only 2.4% above year-ago.

Collectively, Detroit 3 companies were up 6.9%.

Toyota and Nissan also came in below forecast. Toyota was up 72.9% over their tsunami-devastated year-ago sales results, but the company's DSR grew just 5% from April to May.

Honda was up 36.3% versus its abyssmal year-ago tally.

Nissan sales were up 11% yr/yr, but also fell below typical April to May growth.

Hyundai, limited by capacity issues, came in closer to projections, selling 4.5% more vehicles on a daily basis, than they did last year. Kia, meanwhile saw its first yr/yr dip in DSR since Aug 2010's unfavorable comparison to the enormous Clunker sales month of Aug 2009.

The low year-to-year growth for noth Korean companies is largely a reflection of their stellar year-ago, as both were both largely unaffected by tsusnami-related production and supplier problems.

Europeans auto makers weren't immune to the slowdown either.

BMW daily sales fell 1.2% from year ago, the company's first year/year decline since August.  Audi was up just 1.5%, while VW gained 18.3% (compared to its 35.6% growth year-to-date). Daimler tracked 12% above May 2011, but more than 15% below expectations.

May sales bring the U.S. Light Vehicle sales tally for the first five months of 2012 to 5,967,571 - a 13.4% improvement over same-period 2011. 


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