Ford to Chrysler pickup surge paces U.S. auto sales gains in May

Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC reported U.S. sales gains that exceeded analysts’ estimates as surging demand for F-Series and Ram pickups pace the industry’s best year since 2007.

Deliveries of cars and light trucks climbed 14% for Ford and 11% for Chrysler, according to company statements. Nissan Motor Co. sales rose 25%, also beating analysts’ estimates. General Motors Co. deliveries rose 3.1% and Toyota Motor Corp.’s rose 2.5%, both less than analysts had estimated.

The full-size pickup market expanded 20% this year through April, almost triple the increase for all U.S. light vehicles, according to researcher Autodata Corp. Ford, Chrysler and GM, which dominate domestic truck sales, are marketing more efficient pickups as a rebounding housing market boosts demand.

“All the trucks have gotten a lot of attention for their improvement in fuel economy,” Alan Baum, an automotive analyst at Baum & Associates in West Bloomfield, Michigan, said by telephone. “The new ones from GM are on their way out, Chrysler’s fuel economy is better and the Ford fuel economy has been better. They’ve been able to make the improved operating cost case to the buyer who is doing the arithmetic.”

Ford’s sales increase topped the 11% average estimate of 13 analysts in a survey by Bloomberg News. The Dearborn, Michigan-based company said last month that it will add capacity to build 200,000 more vehicles annually in North America on demand for F-Series pickups and Fusion sedans.

Marchionne’s Lineup

Sales for Chrysler, majority owned by Fiat SpA, topped the 6.4% increase that was the average of 13 estimates. The company’s U.S. sales have increased 38 consecutive months as Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne loads its lineup with redesigned Ram trucks, Jeep sport-utility vehicles and new cars such as the Dodge Dart.

Fiat rose as much as 3.2% in Milan trading to its highest intraday price in 22 months.

U.S. light-vehicle sales probably climbed 7.1% in May to 1.43 million, the average estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The annualized industry sales rate, adjusted for seasonal trends, may have risen to 15.2 million, the average of 17 estimates, from 14 million a year earlier. That would keep the market on pace for its best year since 2007.

Chrysler today forecast a 15.5 million industry sales pace for May, including medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which typically account for at least 200,000 deliveries per year. GM estimated a 15.4 million light-vehicle sales rate.

Deliveries rose 22% for Ram pickups to 31,672 and 21% for the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV to 16,034. Ford’s F- Series sales surged 31% to 71,604. GM’s Silverado climbed 25% to 43,283.

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