DETROIT -- Blake Helfman could tell that May was going to be a killer month for Jeep at his Houston dealership when customers started putting their names on SUVs that were still on the delivery truck on his lot.
"Our turn rate is so fast on Jeep," said Helfman, new-vehicle sales manager at Helfman River Oaks Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram. His hunch was right. He sold 221 Jeeps in May, a monthly record for the dealership.
Jeep -- which never before in its 73-year history topped 60,000 U.S. sales in a month -- scored a record 70,203 in May. It bested Kia, nearly beat Hyundai, doubled Volkswagen and tripled Buick. Jeep did so with almost no consumer cash and only modest financing and lease subsidies.
So why Jeep, and why now?
"All of the major growth in the marketplace seems to be isolated in the CUV and SUV segments," says Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "Considering that with Jeep, that's their entire portfolio, they seem to be benefiting more than anybody else."
No brand has gained more market share in the United States since 2010 than Jeep. And the brand has accomplished the feat with modest fleet sales, Gutierrez says.
Don Lee, president of Lee Auto Malls, which operates two Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram stores in Maine, said Jeep's remarkable growth streak has been driven primarily by the addition last year of the 2014 Cherokee mid-sized SUV. It replaced the lackluster Liberty.
The Cherokee, Wrangler and Compass had their best months ever in May.
"The new Cherokee is bringing a new buyer into our showroom that we haven't seen," Lee said. "They're a younger buyer than we would typically see on a Jeep; younger than the Liberty buyer."
In May, Lee had his best new-vehicle month at his Chrysler stores since 2005, thanks to strong Jeep sales.
"We're seeing previous import owners, more Hondas and Toyotas, coming in trade. The new style of the Cherokee is so dramatically different than previous Jeeps have been that it's more appealing to the younger buyer as well," Lee said.