May sales marked the first decline in total car sales in the past eight months. This is mainly a result of inventory shortages due to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, high gas prices and low retail incentive offerings. Cars took slightly longer to move off lots, too. The average number of days it took to sell a new vehicle went from 48 days in April to 54 days in May. That number was at 50 days in May 2010.
Despite the lull, there were winners in May, most notably the Hyundai Elantra. The redesigned model has been a hot seller for some time — a member of the Movers’ list since December 2010 — and it’s now the fastest-moving model, taking just three days to sell. That rate is actually for the 2012 model that went on sale recently. The 2011 was the first year of the redesign, and it also made the Movers’ list this month. We can’t recall two model years of the same vehicle ever making the Movers’ list in the three years we’ve been publishing it.
Chrysler’s Sebring replacement, the 2011 200, also did well for the month, taking only 19 days to sell. The model was the best-selling Chrysler brand product in May. All three Chrysler models — 200, 300 and Town & Country — are selling better than May’s monthly average.
The number of days it takes to sell a new car is a poor measure of actual inventories, so it’s hard to gauge the performance of automakers like Honda and Toyota that may have been affected by the Japanese earthquake earlier this year.
The 2011 Toyota Prius and new 2012 Honda Civic models were hot items for the month, but many popular models, like the Toyota Camry, performed below May’s average.