By Alisa Priddle/Detroit Free Press
DETROIT – Japanese automakers came roaring back in May, even as Detroit’s carmakers held their own.
Toyota led the field with a jump in May of 87 percent on sales of 202,973 vehicles.
The increase reflects a return to normalcy for the Japanese automaker, which saw its inventory cut drastically a year ago in the wake of a disastrous earthquake and tsunami.
Sales of the Camry more than doubled to 39,571 in May while sales of Prius more than tripled to 21,477.
“Our growth has been driven by the success of our new products, led by Camry and Prius family, part of the most aggressive product launch in our history,” said Bob Carter, Toyota group vice president and general manager.
“Toyota, as expected, posted a stunning year-over-year percentage increase. Remember where Toyota was a year ago, however – largely without much product to sell because of the earthquake and tsunami,” said analyst Michelle Krebs of Edmunds.com. “Ford held the No. 2 sales spot over Toyota, a position that looked to be at risk.”
Honda sold 133,997 units, an increase of 47.6 percent from a year ago. Nissan was up 20.5 percent for the month, which had 26 selling days compared with only 24 a year ago.
Detroit’s automakers also had a strong May, even though a year ago, they were selling everything they could make to compensate for the shortages among Japanese automakers.
Volkswagen, Hyundai and Kia, three companies with aggressive growth in the U.S., also reported increases of over a year ago. But while VW’s 38,657 sales were up 28.4 percent for the best May since 1973, Hyundai’s increase was a more modest 13 percent.
Kia saw sales grow 7.4 percent, a cooling of its torrid sales growth.
Chrysler continued its hot streak, selling 150,041 vehicles last month, or 30 percent more than the year before, to record its best May since 2007. Ford reported a 13 percent increase for the month on sales of 216,267 vehicles, and GM sold 245,256 vehicles in May, 11 percent more than the year before.
For Chrysler, this marks the 26th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.
Every brand increased sales and Fiat set a new monthly record with 4,003 Fiat 500s sold, which is a 128 percent increase from last year’s results.
“In spite of a tremendous amount of global economic uncertainty, the U.S. new vehicle sales industry continues to power ahead,” said Reid Bigland, head of the Dodge brand and U.S. sales.