US vehicle sales surpass expectations

Rising housing prices and stable fuel prices boost automobile sector, reflecting highest consumer confidence in years.

    US vehicle sales have risen more than expected as construction workers and oil drillers buy more pickup vehicles to meet growing demand for their services, a trend that major car manufacturers expect to persist throughout the year.

    Car and lorry sales rose eight percent during May, according to Autodata Corp. The annual sales rate was 15.3m vehicles, surpassing the 15.1m rate expected by analysts.

    Rising US housing prices and relatively stable fuel prices boosted car sales in May, US executives said on Monday.

    Consumer confidence in May rose to its highest level in more than five years, according to data released last week.

    May marked the sixth month in the last seven that the sales rate topped 15 million, after dropping to 14.9 million in April.

    The three major US automobile manufacturers dominated pickup-vehicle sales, which generally are sold at a higher profit margin than other vehicles.

    In May, lorries continued to outpace the overall industry, accounting for 11.7 percent of sales, Ford Motor Co executives said.

    Sales of the Ford F-Series pickup vehicle, the best-selling vehicle in North America since the 1970s, rose 31 percent in May.

    GM's top-selling vehicle, the Chevrolet Silverado pick-up vehicle, showed a 25 percent gain. Chrysler's top-selling Ram pickup vehicle rose 22 percent.

    Growing strength

    Growing strength in the US housing and energy sectors has helped drive lorry sales over the last several months. Ford and GM executives said pickup-vehicle sales are strong in Texas and North Dakota, two of the top oil-producing states.

    GM shares rose 1.6 percent to $34.42 on the New York Stock Exchange, while Ford share closed up 1.3 percent to $15.89.

    GM's US market share fell to 17.5 percent from 18.4 percent a year ago, according to Autodata. The No 1 US car manufacturer's sales rose three percent in May, missing expectations.

    GM said its share fell due in part to a 10 percent fall in sales to fleet customers, which include government, business and rental agency buyers.

    GM's sales to consumers, which tend to be more lucrative than fleet sales, rose nine percent in May.

    But GM's US rivals surpassed analyst estimates. Ford, the second-largest US car maker, recorded a 14 percent sales gain. Its US market share rise to 17 percent from 16.2 percent.

    Chrysler, No 4 car manufacturer in the US market, reported an 11-percent rise in sales. Toyota Motor Corp, No. 3 in the US market, had a 2.5 percent sales increase, matching expectations.

    Honda Motor Co, No 5 in the US market, showed a 4.5 percent sales gain, narrowly missing expectations.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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