May was an odd sales month.
For starters, the Detroit 3 were the Big 3. Chrysler Group outsold Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. and American Honda, moving up to No. 3 behind General Motors and Ford Motor.
No Toyota was among the 10 best-selling vehicles. Seven other cars -- two Chevys, two Fords, two Hyundais and a Nissan -- had more sales than the Toyota Camry. And Hyundai-Kia came within a thousand units of catching Toyota group.
Overall, May U.S. auto sales fell to the slowest selling pace since August as thin inventories, low incentives, high fuel prices and a lackluster economy kept buyers out of showrooms.
Automakers sold 1.1 million light vehicles, down 4 percent from last May. The seasonally adjusted annual selling rate of 11.8 million was down sharply from April's 13.2 million SAAR, and the lowest since August 2010's 10.8 million.
Considering tight supplies of fuel-efficient vehicles after the Japan earthquake, the lowest incentives since 2002, rising dealer margins and high fuel prices, it's only natural for consumers to sit it out, said Jeff Schuster, chief auto forecaster for J.D. Power and Associates.
"There's no draw to pull people into showrooms," he said today. "The only ones who have to go are those with expiring leases or damaged or worn-out vehicles."
Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Ford Motor's chief economist, said May sales for the industry were reduced by limited supplies, especially in the compact and subcompact car segments.
"Were it not for those constraints, we believe sales would have been higher," she said. "We could have a couple of additional months of lean sales, but we fully expect a good recovery."