Big-3 sales are up again

Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. posted double-digit sales increases last month thanks to new vehicles and strong fleet sales.

Ford sales rose 23 percent compared to a year earlier while GM sales climbed 16.6 percent.

Excluding castoff brands Pontiac, Hummer and Saturn, sales of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles rose almost 32 percent compared to May 2009. Last month, GM sold 223,822 vehicles and posted the fifth consecutive month of double-digit sales gains for the four core brands.

Ford, meanwhile, sold 192,253 vehicles last month, and the Dearborn automaker marked the sixth consecutive month of at least a 20 percent sales gain.

GM was the first of the major automakers to announce May sales results today. Industry watchers expect a string of improvements over last year, though analysts predict a moderation in consumer demand.

The comparison with May 2009 is expected to show a big recovery from dire results posted amid uncertainty about the financial health of Chrysler LLC and GM.

Analysts believe the selling pace in May ranged from 11 million vehicles, on an annualized basis, to as much as 11.4 million. The lower end of the range would reflect a drop in demand from 11.3 million vehicles in April and 11.8 million in March.

Automotive research site estimates double-digit gains for major automakers except for Toyota Motor Corp., which could show a year-over-year sales increase of 7.5 percent.

For GM, year-to-date combined sales of its newest products, including the Chevrolet Equinox and Camaro, Buick LaCrosse and Regal, GMC Terrain and Cadillac SRX and CTS wagon have climbed 323 percent.

Cadillac sales last month were up 54 percent followed by Buick (37 percent), Chevrolet (31 percent) and GMC (26 percent).

"Each of our brands has new products that are being received well by customers," said Steve Carlisle, GM's vice president of U.S. sales operations.

"In fact, these new vehicles now account for about one in every four retail sales in the U.S. With each brand launching new vehicles in the next few months, we are optimistic about the remainder of the year." Detroit News

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