The U.S. auto industry regained its early-2013 sales form in May, but the results were decidedly mixed among major automakers.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales rebounded to 15.3 million from April's 14.9 million, effectively halting worries of a downtrend after the previous five monthly SAARs had topped 15 million.
Among the biggest automakers last month, three soared while five fluttered below the industry's 8 percent overall gain.
Nissan North America led all the big players with a 25 percent surge, followed by Ford Motor Co.'s 14 percent and Chrysler Group's 11 percent.
Automakers and dealers sold 1,443,311 light vehicles, the highest volume May in six years.
Bill Fay, Toyota brand general manager, said the U.S. auto retail sales topped 1 million for the third straight month.
"Industry retail sales were up 9 percent," he told reporters in a conference call. It was "the best retail month for the industry since August 2007."
Toyota rebounded from a 1 percent decline in April with a 3 percent gain last month. General Motors' 3 percent advance came on the heels of an 11 percent rise in April.
American Honda gained 5 percent and Volkswagen Group of America advanced 4 percent, while Hyundai-Kia America was 2 percent higher.
Among the highlights:
Ford closes in on GM
Ford Motor sales closed to within about 7,000 6,875 units of General Motors in May. The May tally was 252,894 for GM and 246,019 for Ford, aided by strong gains from the F series, Escape and Focus. A year earlier, GM finished almost 30,000 units ahead of Ford.
Ford has outsold GM for a single month three times in the past 15 years -- March 2011, February 2010 and July 1998, during a GM strike. GM has outsold Ford on an annual basis every year since World War II.
Big pickups accelerate
Full-sized pickup sales jumped again in May, rising 24 percent as the U.S. housing sector's recovery brought contractors back to showrooms.
And nothing was hotter than the Ford F series, up 31 percent to 71,604 units -- its best May since 2005. Chrysler's Ram pickup gained 22 percent. GM's Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra each gained more than 20 percent in the final month before their 2014 replacement models start hitting showrooms.
The Toyota Tundra rose 14 percent to 9,950 units while the aging Nissan Titan fell 35 percent to 1,402 units.
So far this year, Detroit 3 automakers have sold more than 710,000 units and hold 94 percent of the big pickup segment.
Camry back on top
After consequent months of being outsold, the Toyota Camry sedan finished May in its customary position as the best-selling car in the United States. Toyota sold 39,216 Camrys, down 1 percent, but well ahead of No. 2 Honda Accord's 33,218.
In March, the Nissan outsold the Camry, and in April it was the Accord. For the first five months, the Camry is No. 1 with 171,756 units. The the Accord is second and the Altima third.
Japanese dominate small pickups
But while Japanese brands have a tiny share in big pickups, they have a chokehold in the mid-sized pickup market Detroit has temporarily abandoned.
May sales rose 20 percent or more for the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier and Honda Ridgeline. With the Ford Ranger, Ram Dakota, Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon currently out of production, there was only a trickle of GM clearance stock sold in May, giving Japanese brands 99 percent of the segment's 23,255 sales. Cq graf
Leaf outsells Volt
Buoyed by a substantial price decrease, sales of the Nissan Leaf electric car quadrupled to 2,138 units in May. It outsold the Chevrolet Volt, GM's extended-range plug-in hybrid.
The Leaf's 531-unit margin in May was enough to move it ahead of the Volt in sales in the first five months, 7,614 to 7,157.