NEWS

Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: May 2015

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If you look only at the top 10 best-selling cars in May, you might think shoppers have switched back from trucks to cars. After all, the Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion replaced the Chevrolet Equinox and Ford Escape, which respectively placed seventh and 10th a month ago. Did this month’s rising gas prices send shoppers back to cars?

Related: May’s Fastest- and Slowest-Selling Cars

Well, no. America kept on truckin’. Shoppers streamed into utility vehicles, with 17 of the 21 fastest-selling cars in May being trucks or SUVs. Among non-luxury vehicles, large, three-row crossovers gained 6.1 percent versus May 2014; small SUVs added 8.7 percent and a burgeoning segment of subcompact SUVs (cars from the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport to the Honda HR-V) piled on 54.9 percent. The only slowdown came among full-size, truck-based SUVs, which fell 17.6 percent.

Don’t let the top 10 fool you. Shoppers still gave cars the cold shoulder. Remember, gas prices remain low: The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded is 92 cents cheaper today than it was a year ago, according to AAA. With the seven largest automakers reporting, May sales were up 0.4 percent over May 2014. But shoppers were lukewarm on fuel-efficient segments like compact cars (down 3.1 percent), subcompacts (down 0.7 percent) and family cars (down 2.9 percent). Despite landing among May’s best-sellers, the Altima, Fusion, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry all saw fewer shoppers. And that was despite stable incentives across three of the four — plus a slight increase in Fusion discounts.

If SUVs picked up steam, pickup trucks had a mixed month. Strong new-home construction bolstered full-size models heading into May, but it wasn’t enough to offset their current plateau, with sales up a modest 1.1 percent.

Much of that came because Ford F-Series sales fell 9.7 percent. It isn’t for a lack of new product; the redesigned 2015 F-150 accounts for 84 percent of new F-150 volume on Cars.com. What gives? IHS Automotive notes that production at Ford’s Kansas City plant is still ramping up, and Automotive News says year-over-year inventory for the F-Series has fallen significantly. That means some truck shoppers may not have been able to find the specific trim they wanted. And those who found their truck might have walked away because of sticker shock; the F-150’s transaction prices rose more than any other top seller in May.

Ford’s venerable pickup wasn’t the only one that cost more; transaction prices for the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500 also increased significantly. But shoppers had a cheaper alternative in midsize pickups, which added 58.3 percent in monthly sales. Consumers piled into GM’s siblings, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, with nearly 12,000 in combined sales.

Pickup trucks notwithstanding, new-car prices didn’t balloon in May. Average transaction prices for the month slowed their gain versus prior months, and shoppers saw some relief in used-car prices. Heading into the month, Manheim’s benchmark Used Vehicle Value Index hit a four-month low.

Here are May 2015’s top 10 best-selling cars:

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