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Auto sales in the U.S. grew 8.2% to 1.44 million units in May while it rose 10.9% to 15.3 million vehicles on a seasonally adjusted rate (SAAR) basis. Thanks to the continued macroeconomic recovery, aging vehicles on the U.S. roads and strong demand for commercial vehicles from businesses.

Among the six major automakers (U.S. and Japanese), Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY) continued to top all the automakers in terms of sales growth. Let's look at the sales figure by individual automakers.

U.S. Automakers

General Motors Company (GM - Analyst Report) posted a 3.1% rise in sales to 252,894 vehicles in May, driven by strong demand for its Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. In fact, it was the company’s best month since Sep 2008. Silverado sales went up 25% to 43,283 units in the month.

Ford Motor Co. (F - Analyst Report) sales rose 14.1% to 246,585 vehicles, driven mainly by strong demand for its F-Series pickup truck and the redesigned Ford Escape small SUV. Sales of Ford’s F-Series pickup, the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., grew 31% to 71,604 units while sales of Escape escalated 26% to 29,123 units.

Chrysler Group – controlled by Italy’s Fiat SpA (FIATY) – recorded an 11.0% rise in sales to 166,596 vehicles, driven by continued strong sales of its Ram pickup truck. Ram pickup sales gained 22% to 31,672 units during the month. Jeep brand sales rose about 1% but Chrysler brand sales fell 2% due to a poor performance from the 300 large sedan (down 18%).

Japanese Automakers

Toyota Motor Corp. (TM - Analyst Report) sales inched up 2.5% to 207,952 units due to strong demand for its Lexus luxury brand. Lexus car sales surged 29% to 12,422 units led by the ES midsize sedan. However, Lexus utility sales went down 17%. Toyota brand car sales scaled up 4% but truck sales were flat.

Honda Motor Co. (HMC - Analyst Report) recorded a 4.5% rise in sales to 140,013 vehicles driven by strong sales gain of its light trucks and Accord sedan. Light truck sales rose 7.8% to 64,395 units while sales of Accord sedan rose 11.7% to 33,218 units.

Nissan Motor posted an impressive 24.7% rise in sales to 114,457 vehicles in May. Nissan Division sales rose 31.2% to 106,558 units, driven by models like Sentra, Altima sedan and Leaf electric car as well as Pathfinder and Rogue trucks. However, sales of Infiniti vehicles dipped 25.4% to 7,899 units in the month.

Outlook

Strong pent-up demand, easier car finance and improving macroeconomic conditions will continue to act as a catalyst to rejuvenate U.S. auto sales to the pre-recession level. Good news is that improving auto sales will also help the overall economic recovery in the U.S. being a key industry for growth. Despite some headwinds, full year sales are expected to exceed 15 million units compared with 14.5 million units in 2012.

GM expects a 7% rise in industry sales in 2013. Meanwhile, Ford predicted an 8% gain in the year, which reflects more than threefold rise compared with the overall economic growth of 2%–2.5% forecasted by the automaker.

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