IRVINE, Calif. — New-vehicle sales are expected to decline 1% year over year to a total of 1.59 million units in May 2015, resulting in an estimated 17.3 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), according to Kelley Blue Book.

“May sales will reach the highest total year-to-date, and could remain the highest until December of this year,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “While we expect an overall decline in volume versus last year, the difference is the result of one fewer sales day from May 2014, and total SAAR will reflect year-over-year improvement.  May typically is a strong sales month, as consumers take advantage of warmer weather and advertised deals for the extended Memorial Day sales weekend.” 

Total sales are projected to hit 16.9 million units in 2015, a 2.5% year-over-year increase and the highest overall total since 2005, when sales fell just shy of 17 million units overall.

In May, new light-vehicle sales, including fleet, are expected to reach 1,590,000 units, down 1% from May 2014 and up 9.5% from April 2015. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for the month is estimated to be 17.3 million, up from 16.7 million in May 2014 and up from 16.5 million in April 2015. Retail sales are expected to account for 82.2% of volume, up from 81.7% in May 2014.

“Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is expected to narrowly continue its sales gain streak to 62 straight months of growth, largely due to the surging Jeep brand, which is poised to set another record in monthly sales,” Gutierrez said. “The all-new Renegade would have helped push Fiat Chrysler’s total even higher, if not for the halt on its deliveries due to a software issue.  Nonetheless, the Cherokee experienced similar troubles at its launch in late 2013 and is now Jeep’s top seller.”    

Most major manufacturers are anticipated to post slight declines in volume or perhaps break even.  However, American Honda could report a slightly larger drop in volume, as two of their best-selling models, the Accord and Civic, are in segments that are losing popularity among consumers. 

Even as gas prices have been on the rise since January, small and mid-size utility vehicles continue to lead the industry. The two segments have grown to comprise nearly 25% of new-car sales and are expected to climb once again in May, roughly 6%. Conversely, small and mid-size car sales are flat and combined share is down 1.5%. Declines in these segments will range between 4% and 5% this month. 

There are 26 sales days in May 2015, compared to 27 sales days in May 2014. All percentages are based on raw volume, not daily selling rate.