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US auto sales of Toyota, Fiat Chrysler rise in May

Key Points
  • Fiat Chrysler, the No. 4 automaker in the United States, reported a 2.1% rise in sales to 218,702 vehicles.
  • Japanese automaker Toyota sold 222,174 vehicles, recording a 3.2% rise.
  • U.S. auto sales are expected to be about 16.9 million units in 2019, a 2.5% fall from 2018.
People look at a new Toyota Prius at Mountain States Toyota in Denver, Colorado.
Matthew Staver | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Major automakers on Monday posted higher U.S. new vehicle sales for May, the first increase for 2019 as a strong economy and upbeat consumer sentiment fueled demand.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota Motor and Nissan Motor all posted sales gains for May compared with the same month in 2018.

U.S. new vehicle sales through April had fallen 3%, fueling expectations of a weaker year for automakers in 2019 than last year.

Concerns of a downturn have been further heightened by recent threats from U.S. President Donald Trump that he will impose new tariffs on all Mexican imports.

Fiat Chrysler reported a 2.1% rise in sales, as demand for both light- and heavy-duty pickup trucks remained strong. The Ram pickup, a major profit-driver for FCA, had a 33 percent gain in sales versus May 2018.

FCA and General Motors have both launched redesigned pickup trucks. Ford Motor has for decades built the single best-selling truck brand in its F-Series trucks, with the Chevy brand a solid No. 2 and Ram a distant third. But in the first quarter of this year, Ram brand trucks outsold Chevrolet-brand trucks.

Both GM and Ford report sales quarterly instead of on a monthly basis.

Japanese automaker Toyota posted a 3.2% sales increase, boosted by strong demand for its Camry sedans.

Nissan said its sales rose 0.1%, driven by SUV and truck sales. The Japanese automaker's sales in the first fourth months of the year had fallen more than the industry average. Nissan has been heavily reliant on consumer discounts and low-margin fleet sales to boost U.S. demand, but has seen its market share drop since 2016.

Honda Motor reported a 4.9% drop in sales for May, driven by declining sedan sales.

Passenger car sales in the United States have fallen steadily in the last few years as Americans abandon sedans in favor of larger, more comfortable pickup trucks and SUVs, which are also far more profitable for automakers.

U.S. auto sales are expected to be about 16.9 million units in 2019, a 2.5% fall from 2018, according to industry consultants J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

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Key Points
  • Bernstein's Max Warburton says that while there may be some tepid interest in Tesla's assets, it's unlikely a European carmaker would buy the company.
  • "What assets are attractive? Tesla no longer has genuinely differentiated tech. The production plant is sub-par. The Gigafactory is probably not essential," he says.