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U.S. Sales Zoom to Near 10-Year High in May

U.S. Sales Zoom to Near 10-Year High in May

Higher fuel prices in May did not keep truck penetration from rising above year-ago for the 28th straight month, but large trucks posted their first year-over-year market-share decline since October.

May’s U.S. sales surged to the highest seasonally adjusted annual rate in nearly a decade, with CUVs and luxury trucks leading the way.

Sales ended the month with a 17.7 million-unit light-vehicle SAAR, highest since an incentive-induced 20.6 million in July 2005, and lifting the year-to-date to 16.8 million, compared with year-ago’s 16.1 million.

Volume of 1.627 million units was the highest ever for May, and equaled a daily selling rate over the month’s 26 days of 62,588, 5.5% above year-ago’s 59,313 – 27 selling days.

Some of the booming volume can be attributed to a small rebound from April’s 16.5 million-unit SAAR, which was slightly below trend. But the results predominantly reflect positive economic trends, such as job and income growth, combined with pent-up demand and low interest rates.

Incentives again did not appear to have a big impact on volume – although one third-party source reported an increase in 0% financing. Also, fleet volume, although estimated to have increased over year-ago, was not a determining factor in the month’s huge success. In fact, some automakers indicate that they intentionally capped fleet deliveries to devote more inventory to retail customers.

CUVs led the market with a 17.4% gain over year-ago and a whopping 28.8% market share, well above year-ago’s 25.9%, the previous high for the month.

Year-to-date CUV share stands at 28.7%, compared with like-2014’s 26.7%. Except for Large Luxury’s 4.9% increase, sales in all CUV segments rose double digits over May 2014, with the biggest gains in Small CUVs (41%) and Small Luxury (62%).

Thanks to CUVs, and a whopping 64% year-over-year gain in Small Pickups, May truck penetration of 54.2% was well above year-ago’s 51.7% and was the 28th straight month it rose over the same year-ago month. Also, year-to-date truck share of 54.7% is well above 5-month 2014’s 52.1%.

Huge truck penetration came despite fuel price hikes in May from April, including 13% in gasoline and 4% in diesel, based on government data. However, large trucks, including luxury vehicles, posted their first year-over-year market-share decline since October – 18.0% vs. year-ago’s 18.2% -- due to a 14.4% decline in Large SUVs.

Other than Ford, major automakers with a bigger mix of cars fared worse on their year-over-year comparisons than those with more trucks. High car mixes at Honda, Nissan and Toyota led to year-over-year gains below the industry average. General Motors and FCA US, which have a large majority of their mix in trucks, posted increases above the industry.

Ford, which still does not yet have full availability of its ’15-model F-150 pickup, recorded only a 2.6% gain over like-2014, despite nearly two-thirds of its mix devoted to trucks.

Luxury vehicles, spurred by gains in CUVs and SUVs of 16.2% and 17.2%, respectively, were up 7.4% in May from year-ago. Luxury-segment penetration was 11.7% vs. like-2014’s 11.5%. Year-to-date, luxury-vehicle share was 12.3%, compared with 5-month 2014’s 12.1%.

Car deliveries were nearly flat with year-ago as a 12.0% shortfall in the Large Car segment almost erased small increases in Small, Middle and Luxury Cars.

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