In Bloom: Six Highlights from May 2015 U.S. Car Sales


It wasn’t just trees, flowers, and other pollinating plants that were in bloom in May. Auto sales blossomed, too. They’re on pace to reach 17.7 million U.S. sales this year, and if June goes just as well, it will be the first time the industry maintains this momentum in 11 years. All told, May’s 1.63 million vehicle sales were up 12 percent from April and two percent from a year ago. After sorting data from the manufacturers and WardsAuto, we found six highlights you should know before reaching for that phone and pressing “one” for sales.

Ford Ruins Vacation Plans And Rocks Van Sales Like It’s 1978

2016 Ford Explorer Sport 4WD

To the Ford employees who planned a vacation during the company’s annual two-week factory shutdown later this month, CEO Mark Fields sends his apologies. The company needs all hands on deck for the Explorer, Escape, Flex, and F-150, which Ford says are in such high demand that they’ve got to bang out another 40,000 vehicles during one of those weeks. Instead of closing for maintenance and retooling, five assembly plants and nine stamping and powertrain plants will remain open. Of those four models, however, only the Explorer has higher five-month sales than last year, up 12 percent; the other three are all flat or down slightly. The Edge did have a smashing May (up 34 percent) along with the new Mustang and the Fiesta (up 40 and 31 percent). Somewhat surprisingly, more Mustang buyers in California are choosing the 2.3-liter turbo four than the V-6 or the V-8. And in a ’70s flashback, the Transit’s 20,655 sales in May were the company’s highest commercial-van sales in 37 years.

Chevy Is Goin’ Colorado Crazy

2015 Chevrolet Colorado LT 4×4

We’ve been asking the domestic truck manufacturers to give us a smaller pickup for years, and while General Motors may be genuinely surprised at how well the new mid-size Chevy Colorado is doing, we’re really not. According to J.D. Power, the average Colorado stays on the lot for only 13 days, making it the fastest-selling pickup on the market (Wards pegs the days at 20, but the “fastest” title still holds). As ever, the big Silverado was the second-most-popular vehicle overall in May, behind the stalwart Ford F-150, at 51,602 units. Among other truckish hits: the Chevy Equinox (up 30 percent), GMC Acadia (up 67 percent), GMC Terrain (plus 11 percent), and Cadillac SRX (up 23 percent). Fleet buyers made up a quarter of GM’s 293,097 sales.

Fiat-Chrysler Hasn’t Felt This Good in a Decade

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

Forty people contorted their frames into a new Alfa Romeo 4C last month. That may not have been much of a factor, but every little bit helped Fiat-Chrysler pull in the best May sales in 10 years. It was also the first time in eight years that Chrysler cracked 200,000 units. Jeep’s 79,652 sales were its best ever, with the Wrangler, Cherokee, and Patriot (!) seeing double-digit gains. (The Wrangler outsold every other Jeep, at 22,324.) The Challenger was the only Dodge to post any increase in May, up 29 percent. The entire brand is down 22 percent, mostly due to the Avenger’s phase-out and a disappointing year for the Grand Caravan (down 51 percent year-to-date). The newish Chrysler 200 outsold both the Charger and the Dart, at a respectable 20,007 cars. Fiat was also down 19 percent in May, although when the 500X reaches full boil (it just went on sale last month), Fiat dealers should start smiling.

The Fit and the HR-V Fly Off Shelves Unaided

2016 Honda HR-V

As evidence that Honda loyalists lurk on every main street corner, the new HR-V, introduced mid-month, sold 6381 units in only two weeks with practically no advertising. Honda says it’s already planning to adjust its 70,000 annual sales target way up after the HR-V completes its first full sales month. And those sales are not coming at the expense of the Fit, which jumped 82 percent over last May. Elsewhere in the lineup, the news was less good. Other than a 17-percent gain for the outgoing Pilot (the new one goes on sale in two weeks), Honda’s mainstream models were down (the Accord dropped 18 percent, while the Civic fell five percent and the Odyssey one percent). Acura stepped in for support, with strong TLX sales (4352 units) and gains for the refreshed ILX (seven percent) and the RDX (29 percent). Honda is one of the few manufacturers to break out hybrid sales in its monthly reports, and so we know that 5166 people chose an Accord hybrid—two and a half times the combined sales of the CR-Z and the discontinued Insight, a few examples of which are still lurking on dealer lots.

Mitsubishi Is Not Only Not Dead, It Appears to Be Growing

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES

Mitsubishi has spent so much time in the dark that anything above ground looks great. That was the case in May, when Mitsubishi posted the industry’s highest year-over-year growth at 32 percent. It was Mitsu’s best May in seven years. Most amazing is that 3369 people (who must not read Car and Driver) bought a Mirage. That’s an accomplishment for the brand all by itself.

It’s Good to Be a Subaru Dealer

2016 Subaru Legacy

Subaru is enjoying the tightest supply of any dealer network, with the average dealer having just 19 days’ worth of cars on hand. Subaru also tied with Mercedes-Benz for the third-largest year-over-year sales increase, at 12 percent, which was behind only Jaguar Land Rover’s 13 percent. The Legacy and XV Crosstrek led the charge (up 64 and 36 percent), while the Forester and Outback inched ahead (at seven and six percent). BRZ sales continue to decline (down 29 percent), however, and we can only hope this car makes it to a second generation.

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