Automakers reported robust sales in the United States in May as several reported double-digit growth over last year, including General Motors, which continued to post strong results despite a widening recall crisis.
GM, the nation’s largest domestic automaker, reported a 13 percent increase over last year, to 284,694 vehicles sold, more than tripling some analysts’ expectations. That monthly sales total was its best month since August 2008, before the recession set in and GM filed for bankruptcy protection. Sales of the Chevrolet Cruze were up 41 percent.
The strong sales come at a time when recalls are up industrywide. Not halfway through the year, General Motors, Ford and Nissan have each recalled more vehicles than they did all of last year.
“Consumers are getting desensitized,” said Jesse Toprak, chief analyst for Cars.com. “You keep hearing about recalls every day. After a while it doesn’t mean much.”
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For some manufacturers, the recalls might have even helped sales, Toprak suggested. “The toughest part of selling a car is getting people in the door,” he said. “A lot of consumers have gone to dealerships to get these recall fixes made, and that’s a buying opportunity.”
That possible explanation for surging sales in the face of recalls does not apply to GM, Toprak said. He pointed instead to the overall state of the market — pent-up demand from the sluggish first quarter of the year, good weather and low interest rates.
“GM is lucky they’re performing in such a robust marketplace,” Toprak said.
And although GM’s wide-ranging recalls have affected some of its most popular vehicles, like the Chevrolet Silverado pickups, the models affected by its most prominent recall — its ignition-switch defect, linked to 2.6 million small cars like the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion — are no longer in production or on showroom floors.
Ford has recalled 2.9 million vehicles this year, including popular current models like the 2013 Explorer. Nonetheless, buyer interest has not suffered. “There’s been a lot of recall activity,” said John Felice, vice president of marketing, sales and service for Ford. “You’re seeing an elevated sensitivity in the industry, but it hasn’t seemed to come through in any impact in sales.”
Ford reported a 3 percent gain in total sales, with 254,084 vehicles sold, the weakest gain among its domestic competitors. The Fusion, which was up 15 percent over the similar month last year, and Explorer, up 21 percent, were particularly strong.
Toyota’s sales surged 17 percent over the similar month last year, with 243,236 vehicles sold. That number represented the best month in six years for the automaker, strengthened by sales of the Camry, up 26 percent, and of its luxury Lexus models, up 21 percent.
Nissan had a 19 percent increase in sales, with 135,934 vehicles sold, its highest May sales ever. Several of the carmaker’s models set monthly records, including the Sentra, sales of which increased by more than 75 percent to 21,932.
Sales by the Chrysler Group rose by 17 percent, to 194,421 vehicles sold. The carmaker, now owned entirely by Fiat, had its best May sales since 2007. For the third month in a row, Jeep brand sales reached a new high. Sales of Jeep models benefited from a new Cherokee, increasing 58 percent over the similar month last year to more than 70,000 vehicles sold.