Brisk demand for SUVs and pickup trucks — and five sunny weekends — pushed U.S. auto sales to a nine-year high in May.
Chrysler, Nissan and Toyota all reported double-digit sales gains over last May. Even General Motors, battling bad publicity from a mishandled recall, surprised with a 13 percent sales increase.
Ford's sales rose a better-than-expected 3 percent, while Hyundai's were up 4 percent. Of major automakers, only Volkswagen's sales fell.
May is traditionally a strong month for the auto industry, as buyers spend their tax returns and think ahead to summer road trips. This year's calendar, with five weekends, gave it an extra boost. Sales were particularly strong the last weekend of the month, automakers said.
Sales rose 11 percent to just more than 1.6 million in May. That was the highest monthly total since July 2005, according to Kelley Blue Book.
June should bring more of the same, said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book. May sales were driven by pentup demand from the winter, he said, but the summer months will likely be strong because of other factors, including low interest rates, good lease deals and enticing new vehicles.
GM said May was its best month since August 2008. Sales of its GMC Yukon and Buick Encore SUVs more than doubled, and buyers snapped up the new Chevrolet Corvette. GMC Sierra pickup sales gained 14 percent.
Brauer said buyers haven't been deterred by GM's multiple recalls — 13.8 million vehicles so far this year — and questions about how long the company took to report safety problems in older cars.
"Car buyers are willing to forget the past and look at the present and future for GM," he said.
Toyota's sales increased 17 percent over last May. Sales of the Camry midsize sedan, the country's bestselling car, rose 26 percent to nearly 50,000. Luxury Lexus brand sales gained 21 percent.
Ford said it was a record month for the Fusion sedan and Escape SUV, which both topped 30,000 in sales. Sales for the Lincoln luxury brand gained 21 percent as the new MKC small SUV went on sale. But Ford's truck sales dropped 4 percent as the automaker reduced incentives.