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

Sedan Sales

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.

Perception Shifts

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 Sales

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.

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