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Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 6/4/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

WRANGLER LEADS WAY

Jeep sales in May are declared best ever

Most automakers report big increases

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Chrysler’s U.S. dealers sold a record number of Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Cherokee sport utility vehicles in May, driving Jeep to its best sales month ever and helping Chrysler Group to continue gaining market share.

The automaker said it sold 19,235 Wranglers last month, shattering the previous mark of 16,272 set a year ago.

Dealers also sold 15,992 Cherokees, the most since the vehicle went on the market in late October.

Combined, the two Toledo-made Jeeps accounted for more than half of all U.S. Jeep sales in the month.

Chrysler Group has now had 50 straight months of year-over-year sales growth, and it has Jeep to thank for a lot of that.

Jeep has become Chrysler Group’s top-selling brand in the United States, and only seems positioned to widen that gap. Sales are up 58 percent over last year, and the brand has set an all-time sales record in each of the last three months.

Chrysler was hardly alone in cheering its May sales, though.

Boosted by consumer confidence, affordable credit, and perhaps most importantly, good weather, the auto industry is sailing into summer on a hot streak.

Every major automaker except Volkswagen reported an increase in sales over last year.

Nissan led the way with a 19 percent increase, en route to its best month ever. Chrysler and Toyota were both up 17 percent.

Even General Motors, which has been plagued by a string of recalls this year that total nearly 14 million vehicles, had a surprisingly solid month, with sales up 13 percent.

“It doesn’t look pretty good, it looks great,” said George Magliano, an analyst with IHS Automotive. “I think we’ve finally got the month that’s broken the logjam.”

May is generally a strong month for auto sales, but this May will go down as the industry’s best month in almost eight years.

Kelley Blue Book said industry sales were up more than 11 percent to 1.6 million units. That puts the industry at an annual sales rate of 16.7 million units, well over what most analysts had expected for May. The last time the annual selling rate was that high was in July, 2006, when it was 17.1 million units.

Analysts said dealers benefited from a month of mostly good weather after contending with one of the worst winters on record. They also were helped by the calendar: May had five weekends this year.

“Memorial Day, from what we hear, was excellent,” Mr. Magliano said. “There’s better availability of cars and truck inventories, and I think it’s a sign the economy is starting to pick up.”

Notably, Ford and GM both performed better than analysts had expected in May.

Ford sales rose 3 percent for its best May in 10 years. The automaker was helped by record months from its Fusion sedan and Escape SUV. Ford also benefited from a 21 percent gain in Explorer sales. Officials said Explorer had its best sales month in nearly a decade. A resurgent Lincoln luxury brand is also helping. Lincoln sales were up 21 percent for the month.

GM, meanwhile, has shown that trouble with cars it sold years ago doesn’t necessarily mean buyers will be put off today. Even with all the negative publicity over the stream of recalls, GM had its best month in nearly six years.

“The momentum we generated in April carried into May, with all four brands performing well in a growing economy and 17 vehicle lines posting double-digit retail sales increases or better,” GM vice president Kurt McNeil said

Another sign of the industry’s health was that automakers aren’t spending heavily to get vehicles off their lots. According to TrueCar.com, average incentive spending across the industry rose by 1 percent from last year. Chrysler, GM, and Nissan all cut incentive spending from last year.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134 or on Twitter @BladeAutoWriter.



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