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.
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.
The strong pickup demand and fresh cars from Detroit such as Ford’s Fusion, Chrysler’s Dart and GM’s Cadillac ATS paced a sweep of first-quarter U.S. market share gains for the three companies for the first time in two decades.
Ford plans to boost third quarter production by 10% to 740,000 vehicles, according to today’s statement. The company reiterated its forecast that second-quarter output would rise 8.5% to 800,000 vehicles in the region.
Deliveries were projected to increase 5.5% for GM in May, the average estimate of 13 analysts. Cadillac sales rose 40%, while sales of Chevrolet, GM’s largest brand, climbed 0.9%. Toyota sales were estimated to increase 3%, the average of eight analysts’ projections.
Jim Press, a former sales executive with Toyota and former deputy CEO of Chrysler, said U.S. brands are making gains in the market, propelled by a “fundamental shift in consumer perception” that recognizes improved vehicles.
“Their products are equal to or better than all import brands, giving consumers the green light to purchase American with pride,” Press said in an e-mailed statement. “The imports’ biggest nightmare is Detroit’s fondest dream.”
GM rose 0.7% to $34.14 at 10:51 a.m. New York time, while Ford gained 0.2% to $15.71.
Detroit’s more competitive entries are slowing down Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. after the Seoul-based affiliates combined to gain market share for 13 consecutive years through 2011. Hyundai and Kia are giving up more ground to the Americans automakers this year than Japanese companies, whose rebound last year from a tsunami a year earlier snapped their run of gains.
The trend probably continued this month, with Hyundai and Kia sales slipping a combined 1.6% from a year earlier, the average estimate of seven analysts in a survey by Bloomberg News. No other automaker’s deliveries are projected to drop.
Deliveries for the Hyundai brand rose 2% to 68,358, Hyundai said in a posting on Twitter.
Even if the analysts are proven wrong, it’s clear that Hyundai and Kia’s momentum has slowed. Combined sales for the two Seoul-based affiliates fell 2.3% through April in a U.S. market that grew 6.9%, according to Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based researcher Autodata.
Volkswagen AG, based in Wolfsburg, Germany, reported a 2.2% increase in sales for its VW and Audi brands in May, falling short of the 7.7% gain that was the average of four estimates. VW brand sales slipped 1.7%, while Audi deliveries jumped 15%, according to company statements.
Nissan was projected to lead all automakers with a 22% increase in U.S. sales, the average of eight estimates. The Yokohama, Japan-based automaker last month cut the price of seven models, including its top-selling Altima sedan.
Honda Motor Co. may have risen 5.7% in May, the average estimates of eight analysts.