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May 2011 Auto Sales: Up or Down?

May 31st, 2011

May 2011 Car Sales up, but not much

Today is June 1, 2011.  That means automakers will report May 2011 auto sales later today, and auto sales are expected to rise slightly compared to May of last year.  Additionally, May is expected to bring a significant decline in the seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) when compared with the first four months of 2011. The SAAR balances the total number of vehicles sold with projections for the year based on historic data for a given sales season.

The expected SAAR for May translates to a total annualized figure of between 12.1 and 12.4 million units sold, according to industry expert predictions gathered by Business Insider and Bloomberg.

Through the preceding months of 2011, projections were closer to 13 million units. This was on pace for the highest sales figures since 2008.

May 2011 Car Sales Good for Hyundai

Hyundai/Kia are expected to overtake Toyota's brands for third in total U.S. car sales in the month of May.

The difference boils down to financial aftershocks due to the Japan natural disasters of this past March. Parts shortages have hit Toyota and Honda production particularly hard, with Ford, GM and Hyundai/Kia making gains in sales that would have otherwise gone to Toyota and Honda.

Hyundai and Kia, which fall under the same corporate umbrella, are projected to sell more combined cars than Toyota/Scion/Lexus for the first time ever in May, taking over the third spot behind rebounding GM and Ford at first and second.

The general consensus boils down to figures for May being somewhat of anomaly, with yearly pace still on track to bring big gains for the industry as a whole. The causes for less-than-stellar May figures?

Incentive spending is down industry-wide, leading to higher actual out-the-door prices paid by consumers. Those seeking to purchase a new car have heard so much in the media about production shortages that are likely putting off their purchases off until later this year.

This should bring even better than originally projected seasonally adjusted sales numbers for the late summer and fall as supply chains return to normal.

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