DETROIT, June 1U.S. new vehicle sales figures in
May were likely propped up by heavy discounts, say industry
analysts who expect that demand in the month was little changed
or up just slightly after two months of falling sales.
Ford Motor Co said its U.S. sales inched up 2.2
percent to 241,126. Nissan Motor Co said U.S. sales in
May rose 3.0 percent, to 137,471, amid record demand for its
trucks, crossovers and SUVs.
After demand fell in March and April, analysts estimated May
sales at just over 1.5 million. The seasonally adjusted annual
rate of sales in May was estimated at 16.8 million to 16.9
million vehicles, about the same as April. A year earlier, sales
stood at 17.55 million vehicles.
Early reports indicate that sales over the three-day
Memorial Day weekend were helped by heavy discounts.
"While demand for new vehicles is still relatively strong,
it's a bit of smoke and mirrors," said Jessica Caldwell,
executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds, the car
Manufacturers and dealers "really pushed the deals over the
holiday weekend to prop up their May numbers," she said.
"Incentives were up sharply, and it seems automakers are putting
more cash on the hood to nudge car shoppers to buy versus
General Motors dealers were offering discounts of up to
$12,000 on the full-size Chevrolet Silverado pickup, while some
dealer discounts on Ford Motor Co's F-series pickups were more
than $10,000 on 2017 models and more than $14,000 on leftover
2016 models. The 2017 model year started eight months ago.
Some automakers also continued to cut back on low-margin
sales to rental car fleets. GM said its fleet sales in May were
about 10 percent of its total sales, compared with an industry
average of around 20 percent.
(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Bernadette