Without context, one might think that sales for the U.S. automotive industry in May were off-the-charts good. Look at brands like Toyota and Honda, sales of which were up an astonishing 88.9 and 46.0 percent, respectively. Or look at Chrysler, up an equally incredible 82.34 percent. We're back, baby! Right? Not quite.
The performance of Toyota and Honda, as well as luxury brands Lexus and Acura, can be explained by the fact that one year ago coincides with two months after Japan was rocked with earthquakes and tsunamis that knocked out most of the country's domestic automobile production. By May, Japanese automakers, particularly Toyota and Honda, were running out of inventory to sell that couldn't be replaced. Toyota sales in the U.S. fell nearly 32 percent in May 2011 and Honda by 22.4 percent. Thus, both these automakers are about to put together a string of months that show industry-leading sales increases, but only because those sales are being compared to last summer's drought.
Likewise, Chrysler and Dodge just hadn't hit their sales stride yet at this time last year when sales of all of Chrysler Group were up only 10 percent, buoyed by solid performances from Ram and particularly Jeep. With all of four of its brands now operating on all cylinders, the Chrysler Group finished last month up over 30 percent from May 2011.
And yet, despite all of these positive numbers, despite even General Motors and Ford posting solid increases of 10.9 and 12.6 percent respectively after both experienced dips in April, the industry as a whole is not performing as well as analysts would like. With only a couple brands left to report, it's looking like the seasonally adjusted annualized rate of sales will fall well below analysts' estimates of 14.4 million units, settling somewhere in the range of 13.8 million units, the worst estimate so far this year.
Check out how the entire auto industry did in the monthly sales chart below, and visit our By the Numbers section to see all past months.
*Brands and companies are displayed in descending order according to their percentage change in volume sales. There were 26 selling days in May 2012 versus 24 selling days in May 2011, so the change in monthly sales volume will be different than the change in average daily sales rate (DSR) for each brand/company. Also, brands are combined and reported as companies only if their sales figures are released jointly.