U.S. May auto sales down 6 percent; sedan sales weak

Wed Jun 1, 2016 4:26pm EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. auto industry sales fell 6 percent in May, with General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote), Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) and other manufacturers reporting lower U.S. vehicle sales for the month due to sluggish demand for sedans and two fewer selling days.

Major automakers reporting May sales on Wednesday sold new vehicles at an annualized rate of 17.45 million vehicles, Autodata Corp said, up from 17.42 million vehicles in April. The May annualized rate was generally in line with analysts' expectations.

GM, the largest U.S. automaker, said its sales fell 18 percent to 240,450 vehicles, a steeper decline than analysts expected.

Ford reported a 6 percent drop to 235,997 vehicles from a year earlier, but said its F-Series pickup truck sales rose 9 percent.

In the morning, sales reports, particularly GM's, spooked investors on the lookout for weakness in the cyclical auto industry, which has been on an upswing since the Great Recession.

GM shares ended down 3.4 percent at $30.20 and Ford down 2.8 percent at $13.11, both higher than lows hit in the morning. The broader S&P 500 .SPX and Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI were up less than 0.1 percent.

Analysts generally did not view the sales decline as the start of the anticipated weakness in auto sales, an early snapshot of consumer spending each month. Most analysts had expected a drop, in large part because of two fewer selling days and one less weekend in May.

"The outlook ... remains for another record year, and nothing in May’s results suggests otherwise," said IHS Automotive analyst Stephanie Brinley.   Continued...

Automobiles are shown for sale at a car dealership in Carlsbad, California, U.S. on May 2, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo