Automakers report sales gains with some manufacturers posting record sales in May as Americans shake off the global pandemic.

For the seven automakers reporting sales for May, sales rose an average of 37% over the same month in 2020. Five automakers bested their sales numbers for 2019—a sign that demand is back to normal. And, Morgan Stanley reported demand advanced 42% in May while LMC Automotive put gains at 43%. 

Hyundai brand volume soared 56% to 90,017 in May, marking the third consecutive month of sales records for the Korean automaker. These figures are 36% higher than in May 2019. The company attributes its results to a better inventory supply than competitors, having a 26-day supply compared to an industry average of 23 at the end of May. 

Toyota Motor North America also saw big gains. The automaker’s sales rose 47% in May compared to the year prior. However, the automaker’s inventory has dropped to an eight-day supply for the Toyota brand and to 12 days for the Lexus brand. Still, executives report the automaker has cars coming in.

There were a few losers in this record-setting sales game. Ford Motor Co. and Subaru reported weaker results in May 2021 than in May 2019. Ford’s May sales rose 3.7%, slowed by a 29% drop in F-Series pickup business because of tight semi-conductor supplies. 

Morgan Stanley put the seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of sales at 17.1 million for May, well above the 16.2-to-16.7-million-unit forecasts predicted by analysts. This figure is down from 18.5 million in April but above the 12.1 million rate for May 2020.

The financial services company attributes rebounding demand to stimulus support in the first quarter, pent-up demand after the pandemic, a stronger than expected U.S. economy, record prices for used cars, and favorable credit conditions. 

But record low inventories because of a worldwide microchip shortage could stop the industry’s upward trajectory as consumers struggle to find popular vehicles. And some automakers wonder where May sales numbers might have been had better inventory levels existed, reported Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds. 

Positive news from General Motors offsets these outward signs of trouble. The automaker projects better second-quarter results than expected as supplies of microchips improve and the company develops workarounds to address the shortage. 

General Motors reported plans to complete, test and ship 30,000 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups awaiting microchips by late July. The company also reports “production line efficiencies” at its Flint, Michigan, plant will allow it to increase shipments to 1,000 vehicles a month by mid-July. 

The selling climate hinges on stories like these. How fast automakers move vehicles from factory floors to showrooms will shape the sales story the rest of the year.



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