Make no mistake: U.S. sales of new cars and trucks are improving. May was the best month of the year, and the future looks even brighter.
But don't get the idea that the automotive recession is over. It isn't.
That seems like a paradox, but it's true. If you compare this year with last year, the industry is going gangbusters. If you compare this year with 2007, the sales numbers have a long way to go to become respectable or even acceptable.
Why 2007? Because that was the last of the U.S. industry's nine consecutive 16 million-plus sales years. It also was the weakest of those nine years, with sales of 16,154,010.
May sales this year totaled 1,103,084, 19 percent better than last year. Hoo boy! But this year's May sales were 29 percent below those of May 2007. What's the opposite of hoo boy?
This year's five-month sales total of 4,631,172 was up 17 percent from last year's horrific tally. But it was 32 percent below the five-month total in 2007.
The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate is a major bit of good news for the optimistic members of the auto fraternity. It was 11.8 million in May, and that number is flirting with the 12 million sales the industry is hoping for this year.
That would be 15 percent better than last year's anemic 10.4 million but 26 percent below 2007.