After a few years of late-starting, lackluster deals, the summer auto sale may be back in full force.
Light vehicle sales were up 8.2 percent in May compared to the previous year, according to research firm Autodata Corp. Sales year-to-date are 7.3 percent higher than in 2012. That demand, paired with fairly lean inventory on lots, should have put automakers in the driver's seat as it did last year—which led to cash discounts, financing deals and other offers staying fairly flat.
But the recovering economy has put automakers under some pressure this year to keep up the momentum by increasing sales and gaining market share, said Lincoln Merrihew, vice president of transportation at market research firm Compete. "That can get pretty tough," he said.
At an American International Automobile Dealers Association meeting in May, executives for brands including Kia and Hyundai predicted a competitive summer with incentives that could limit profitability.
Adding to the push, dealerships also have a few more cars on the lot to clear for new models than they did last year. Earlier this month, automakers reported having a 57-day supply of vehicles, versus a 52-day supply a year ago.