Automakers announced their U.S. sales numbers Friday, and Chrysler Group LLC again was impressive, with its dealers selling 150,041 vehicles. The Toledo-built, go-anywhere Wrangler accounted for 14,454 of those sales, a 44 percent increase from last May. Sales beat the previous record set in July, 2011, by more than 119 units.
Overall, Chrysler posted a 30 percent gain in May over last year, and had its best May since before the recession.
“In spite of a tremendous amount of global economic uncertainty, the U.S. new-vehicle-sales industry continues to power ahead,” Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales for Chrysler, said in a statement.
May was the 26th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth for Chrysler. In each of the last 12 of those months, sales growth has been at least 20 percent.
In addition to setting a sales record, the Wrangler overtook the Jeep Grand Cherokee as Chrysler Group’s No. 2 selling vehicle. The Ram pickup remains No. 1, with more than 26,000 sold in May.
Analysts and dealers have credited some of the ongoing wave of Wrangler sales to Chrysler dropping in a more powerful and fuel-efficient V6 engine for the 2012 model year.
Brian Alexander, a new car salesman with Yark Automotive Group, said he’s seeing more people interested in Wranglers as their primary transportation, rather than a second car for weekend fun.
“The new engine definitely has a lot to do with it. It’s giving people better gas mileage and the Wrangler’s always been a loved vehicle,” he said. “When the mileage is improved, more people consider it as an everyday vehicle.”
That interest as an everyday vehicle also translates to more people looking at the four-door Unlimited model, which was introduced for the 2007 model year. Chrysler does not break down monthly sales between the two-door and four-door Wranglers. However, through April, workers at the Toledo Assembly Complex were building nearly two Unlimited models for every standard two-door Wrangler.
Year to date, Wrangler sales are up 34 percent.
“It’s a great story,” Yark general manager Doug Kearns said. “It just keeps showing up month after month. The [Toledo] plant has a great problem trying to keep up with demand for this country and everywhere else.”
The Yark dealership reported selling 31 Wranglers last month for a total of 93 so far this year. Last year, Yark sold 169 Wranglers.
Chrysler’s 30 percent gain in May over last year was tops among the Detroit Three, though Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co.also reported May sales growth.
GM said it sold 245,256 vehicles in the United States, up 11 percent year-over-year. The maker of Cadillacs, Chevrolets, and Buicks said May was its best sales month since August, 2009.
GM sold more cars than any other company, followed by Ford, Toyota, Chrysler, Honda, and Hyundai.
Ford rebounded with a 13 percent sales gain over last May after a disappointing April in which sales fell 5 percent from the year prior. Ford said it sold 216,267 vehicles last month.
Toyota nearly doubled its earthquake-hampered sales from last May, with the Japanese automaker selling 202,973 vehicles last month — an 87 percent increase over 2011.
“With our best May sales performance since before the financial crisis, it’s obvious Honda’s return to strength is in full swing, and our May sales are impressive irrespective of last year’s production supply problems,” John Mendel, American Honda executive vice president of sales, said in a statement. “Any time Honda Civic sales surpass 33,000 units in a month, it shows real demand in the marketplace.”
Hyundai reported selling 67,019 vehicles for its second-best month ever. Partner company Kia also posted strong results, reporting sales of 51,771 vehicles for its best May. Year-to-date sales are up about 19 percent, Kia said.
For all companies, domestic auto sales were 26 percent higher in May than they were in May, 2011. For the year, sales are up 13 percent.
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