"I wasn't worried about their bankruptcy," said Andy Bahl, 64, a computer programmer shopping for a Chevrolet Malibu this week in Grapevine, Texas. "I was worried about the ability to get a good deal."
GM and Chrysler reported U.S. sales yesterday that fell less than analysts expected in May, when Chrysler was operating in bankruptcy and GM worked to beat a federal deadline to restructure outside of court.
GM's sales fell 30 percent last month from a year ago, but they improved 11 percent from April. Ford Motor Co. said its May U.S. sales fell 24 percent from last year but rose 20 percent from April, and its share of the U.S. market rose to the highest level since 2006.
Chrysler's sales fell 47 percent in May, but the company says bankruptcy protection did little to deter customers. It sold 79,010 cars and light trucks last month, although many carried deep discounts. Chrysler had the highest average incentive among automakers last month - $4,159 per vehicle, according to Edmunds.com.
The number of people who said they intend to buy a vehicle from Chrysler, which filed for court protection April 30, rose 72 percent in May from April, while "purchase intent" for GM increased in the last two weeks of the month, Edmunds.com said.
Toyota Motor Corp. said its U.S. sales fell 40 percent from last year but climbed 21 percent from April. Honda Motor Co. reported its year-over-year volumes dropped 41 percent, while Nissan Motor Co. said sales fell 33 percent.
"The May results should be interpreted with some caution, given the current volatility in the marketplace," said Emily Kolinski Morris, senior U.S. economist for Ford.
GM, which had been expected to file bankruptcy last month and did so on Monday, said it delivered 191,875 vehicles in May, helped by 110,866 truck sales. It hopes to emerge from bankruptcy within 60 to 90 days as a smaller, less debt-burdened company.
The Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn, and Saab brands accounted for the company's biggest sales declines. GM has said it plans to get rid of those divisions as part of its restructuring.
Ford said it sold 161,197 cars and light trucks in the United States last month. Ford Fusion sales rose 9.4 percent as the company began selling new 2010 models of the midsize sedan along with a hybrid version.
Chrysler, which filed for bankruptcy protection April 30 and is now trying to emerge from Chapter 11 under a merger with Italian automaker Fiat SpA, said it sold virtually the same number of Toledo-made Jeep Wranglers last month as the year before, 9,294, but 26 percent fewer Toledo-made Jeep Libertys, 4,615.
Also made at the Toledo Jeep Assembly complex are Dodge Nitros, whose sales are down 31 percent, at 1,845.