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Detroit’s big three fight back

It's back: Ford's new Super Duty is helping to lead its light-truck fightback, contributing to 50,000 F-Series sales in the US in May.

Big-iron Ford F-Series back in town as US auto market soars 19 per cent in May

General News logo3 Jun 2010

DETROIT’S bruised big three motor companies hit their sales straps last month as American new-vehicle sales recovered by 19 per cent over depressed May 2009 volumes, to 1.1 million vehicles.

Even Chrysler stormed back into contention under its new Fiat regime, with group sales reaching 100,000 units for the month - up 33 per cent on last year when it was mired in chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Ford had its sixth straight monthly increase of more than 20 per cent, with Blue Oval sales up 23 per cent on the back of booming sales of F-Series pick-ups, Fusion, Taurus and Mustang.

But General Motors still held market leadership, with sales rising 17 per cent – slightly down on the market trend – to 223,410 units, ahead of Ford’s 196,671 vehicles.

The news was less rosy for third-placed Toyota whose group sales – including Lexus – gained only seven per cent, to lose ground on its major rivals in the wake of the Japanese company’s safety recall dramas.

GM’s strategy of paring its brands to four by dumping others such as Saturn, Pontiac and Hummer last year at last seems to be paying dividends, with sales of the remaining four – Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC – collectively jumping 32 per cent over May 2009.

80 center imageFrom top: Toyota Yaris, Ford Fusion and Buick LaCrosse.

Year to date, these brands are up 31 per cent, although if the axed nameplates are included, this figure falls to a gain of 14 per cent.

The growth has been driven by GM’s newcomers, including the Chev Equinox (Captiva), the Holden-designed and engineered Chev Camaro, Buick LaCrosse, Buick Regal, GMC Terrain and Cadillac SRX SUV. GM says that collectively, sales of these nameplates were up 323 per cent on May last year.

Ford’s top-selling F-Series pick-up reflected the American economy’s struggle back to health, climbing 49 per cent year-on-year to a tick under 50,000 units for the month.

To put that in perspective, the Ford F-Series outsold Hyundai in the US in May, even though the resurgent Korean car-maker enjoyed a 33 per cent lift in sales to 49,045 units for the month after massive increases in sales of the new Sonata (i45), which was up 92 per cent, and Tucson, up 227 per cent.

Toyota attributed its sluggish growth to stock shortages after recent sales incentives depleted dealer showrooms.

Sales of the petrol-electric Prius hybrid climbed 41 per cent to 14,248 units, making it Toyota’s third best-selling vehicle in the US behind the Corolla and Camry.

But plunging sales of the entry-level Yaris – down 58 per cent in May, to 4202 units – impacted Toyota’s growth.

Toyota’s Japanese transplant rivals, Honda and Nissan, both outpaced the market, up 19 and 24 per cent respectively.

Biggest monthly gains were by Mazda and Subaru, which both posted 35 per cent sales increases.

The overall US light-vehicle market’s 19 per cent gain in May was ahead of most analysts’ predictions, and puts the US market on an annualised 11.8 million pace.

In the five months so far this year, American car dealers have sold 4.6 million cars, up 17 per cent.

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