Major automakers on Friday reported strong U.S. vehicles sales for the month of May, helped by robust consumer demand despite the economic uncertainty. General Motors Co. (GM: Quote) and Ford Motor Co. (F: Quote) reported 10.9% and 12.6% rise in May U.S. vehicles sales, respectively. Chrysler Group LLC continued its strong momentum with a 30% growth, while Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. (TM: Quote) reported a 87.3% jump in U.S. vehicle sales.
GM reported its strongest monthly sales since the popular Cash For Clunkers program in 2009. The largest U.S. automaker said its May U.S. sales rose 10.9% to 245,256 units from 221,192 units in the same month last year. This is the company's highest monthly total since August 2009, when dealers delivered 246,479 units.
There were 26 selling days in May 2012, compared to 24 selling days in May 2011.
For May, total Chevrolet brand sales rose 10.2% to 177,943 units, while total GMC sales grew 19.3% to 38,877 units and total Buick sales increased 19.2% to 18,565 units. Total Cadillac sales for the month dropped 15.1% to 9,871 units.
GM's retail sales for the month rose 14% from last year, while its fleet sales increased 3%.
Looking ahead, GM maintained its outlook for full year 2012 light vehicle sales in a range of 14.0 million to 14.5 million units.
GM also said later Friday that it will provide select U.S. salaried retirees a lump-sum payment offer and other retirees with a continued monthly pension payment securely administered and paid by Prudential Insurance Company of America, a Prudential Financial, Inc. (PRU) company.
GM said it expect the retirement plan actions to result in a $26 billion reduction of its U.S. salaried pension obligation.
GM's anticipated cash contribution to its U.S. salaried pension plans to effect those actions will be in the range of $3.5 to $4.5 billion to help fund the purchase of the group annuity contract and to improve the funded status of the pension plan for active salaried employees.
The company expects to take net special charges in the range of $2.5 to $3.5 billion in the second half of 2012 and the ongoing annual impact to earnings will be about $200 million unfavorable due to a decrease in pension income.
Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford, the second largest U.S. automaker, said it sold 216,267 vehicles in the U.S. in May, up 12.6% from 192,102 vehicles sold in the same month last year. For April, Ford had reported a 5% decline in U.S. vehicles sales.
Ford's car sales grew 6% year-over-year to 79,888 units in May, while truck sales surged 21.1% to 75,108 units. Utility vehicle sales rose 12% to 61,271 units.
Sales of Ford brand vehicles increased 13.2% to 208,993 units, while sales of Lincoln brand vehicles fell 1.7% to 7,274 units.
Ford's retail sales for the month were up 12%.
May sales of Ford's small car Focus rose 11.1% to 24,769 vehicles. Sales of another fuel-efficient small car Fusion increased 9% to 26,857 vehicles, its best May sales ever and its strongest-ever retail sales month. Mustang sales jumped 57.8% to 10,427 units.
Among the utilities, Explorer saw its best sales month since the current model hit the market in December 2010, up 10.1%, while Edge sales were up 23.9% in May.
Sales of Ford's F-Series truck, America's best-selling truck for 35 years in a row and America's best-selling vehicle, car or truck, for 30 straight years, jumped 29.3% to 54,836 units in May.
"Ford posted solid gains across our fresh lineup of new cars, utilities and trucks in May," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. "Fuel efficiency continues to be a top purchaser driver, and Ford's wide range of fuel-efficient products delivered again."
Ford also said that it plans to build 690,000 vehicles in North America in the third quarter of 2012, up 5% or 34,000 vehicles from the third quarter of 2011. The company's second quarter North American production forecast remains unchanged at 730,000 vehicles.
Ford said last month that it will produce nearly 40,000 additional vehicles this summer by idling 13 plants, including six assembly plants, for just one week instead of the traditional two. The automaker said its summer production boost due to its altered summer shutdown schedule is consistent with the company's plan to increase its annual vehicle production capacity by 400,000 units.
Ford was less ravaged by the recession than most of its peers. The company also did not have to restructure with federal assistance. The automaker has reported a profit for each of its last twelve quarters. The company has also reinstated its quarterly stock dividend.
Chrysler Group LLC, which is majority owned by Italy-based Fiat SpA (FIATY.PK), reported that its U.S. vehicle sales for the month of May increased 30% to 150,041 units from 115,363 units in the same month last year. The company has now reported 26 straight months of year-over-year sales gains.
Chrysler's total car sales for the month rose 46% to 46,928 units, while its total truck sales increased 24% to 103,113 units.
Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., a unit of Toyota Motor Corp. (TM), said its U.S. vehicle sales for May jumped 87.3% year-over-year to 202,973 units.
Total Toyota division sales in May 2012 were 181,510 units, up 88.9% from a year ago. Total Lexus division sales in May 2012 surged 74.4% from last year to 21,463 units.
GM shares are currently trading at $21.99, down 22 cents, while Ford shares are currently trading at $10.13, down 44 cents or 4.12%.
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by RTT Staff Writer
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