DETROIT -- All major automakers except Toyota reported double-digit U.S. sales gains in May, as the light-vehicle sales rate hit its highest level since December.
Sales rose 19 percent from May 2009, marking the eighth-straight monthly increase, the longest such streak since June 2000, according to Bloomberg Data. The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate hit 11.8 million, beating analysts' predictions for demand in the low-11-million-unit range.
Ford Motor Co., one of the leaders in the Memorial Day weekend incentive spree, gained 22 percent for the month. General Motors Co. -- which yesterday marked the anniversary of its 2009 bankruptcy filing -- saw overall sales rise 17 percent.
Chrysler Group climbed 33 percent compared with May 2009, a month the automaker spent in bankruptcy.
All three Detroit automakers beat analysts' average forecasts by at least 6 percentage points.
Despite continuing a string of incentives it started in March, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. increased only 7 percent, its worst sales performance since posting declines in January and February during recall problems. Toyota is still trying to fix its image after its recent global recalls of more than 8 million vehicles to address unintended acceleration and braking problems, said Jeff Schuster, lead forecaster for tracking firm J.D. Power and Associates.
Also, “there's likely some payback from the incentives that they put in place in March,” Schuster said. “They lost their effectiveness.”
Bob Carter, general manager of the Toyota division, attributed Toyota's poor sales performance partially to low inventory of light trucks and 2010 models that qualified for 0 percent financing. He also pointed out the boost Toyota got last year during GM's and Chrysler's financial woes. Toyota is increasing production of light pickups and SUVS in the next 90 days, he said.
Nissan North America and American Honda took advantage of Memorial Day discounts -- Nissan grew 24 percent and American Honda grew 19 percent. Hyundai-Kia was up 28 percent for its 11th-straight monthly gain.