Smaller brands post big gains

As most automakers posted lower monthly sales on Tuesday, June 2, Subaru quietly reported record U.S. sales increases.

Subaru posted a 13.2 percent month-over-month increase in retail sales for May. Year-to-date sales rose 4.2 percent from the same period last year. It posted gains in all of its models except the Legacy, which fell 10.4 percent. Overall Subaru car sales were up 14.0 percent.

Subaru’s biggest success was the redesigned Forester, which saw sales jump 65.6 percent from May 2007. The Forester’s gains bested those of similar vehicles, such as the Toyota RAV4, whose sales fell 9.9 percent, and the Honda CR-V, whose sales rose 2.3 percent.

Subaru remains a bit player in the American auto market, with a share of 1.32 percent in May, an increase of just under three-tenths of a percentage point from May 2007. Subaru sold 18,436 vehicles last month. It has sold 76,088 so far this year.

“Thanks to the tremendous job our Subaru retailers are doing and our strong products, we had another exceptional month of retail sales,” said Tim Colbeck, vice president of sales for Subaru of America, in a statement. “Additionally, with great press in Motor Trend, USA Today and other leading publications, we look forward to continued strong sales.”

Kia also recorded its best sales month, surpassing the record it set in April. The automaker sold 31,047 vehicles in May, an increase of 9 percent over the same period last year. Year-to-date sales were 129,327 units, up from 128,104 during the same period a year ago.

Kia’s parent, Hyundai Motor Co., saw sales of vehicles with the Hyundai badge climb 5.8 percent from last May, to 46,415 units. The Accent, Sonata and Elantra gained volume, while sales of Hyundai’s six other models were down.

The Elantra posted the biggest increase, passing the Sonata to become Hyundai’s best-selling model with sales of 13,645 units.

Mazda sales gained 4.2 percent to 27,921 units in May. Year-to-date sales were 1.9 percent higher than in the same period in 2007. Mazda’s car sales were up 8.4 percent, while its truck sales dropped 7.7 percent.

BMW AG posted a 3.1 percent gain for the month, but sales for the year to date are still down 2.4 percent from last year.

The increase was largely due to the BMW’s Mini brand, which soared 52.8 percent in May. That was the biggest sales increase of any brand last month. Sales of BMW-branded vehicles fell 4.6 percent.

Apart from Isuzu, Mitsubishi was the worst-performing Japanese automaker last month. Its sales in May fell 23.6 percent to 10,430 vehicles. Mitsubishi’s car sales fell 16.9 percent, while its SUV sales fell 46.5 percent. Galant sales rose 7.9 percent, but Lancer volume dropped 17.6 percent.

Craig Trudell contributed to this report

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