Memorial Day Movers: 10 Cars and Trucks That Owned the Month of May

In addition to May having the all-stops-pulled Memorial Day sales at dealers across the country, May 2014 had another unusual feature: five weekends (four and a half, technically, but an extra Saturday that fell on May 31) that helped auto sales in the U.S. leap 11 percent over May 2013, as Toyota (NYSE:TM) put in 17 percent gains and General Motors (NYSE:GM) put up 12.6 percent. But it was Nissan (NSANY.PK) that led the pack, tacking on a tidy 18.8 percent surge.

The average car in early May sold for $32,217, down by about $209 versus the year-ago May, Cars.com reports, citing data from CNW Research. This is largely due to the liberal application of incentives. “Dealers and automakers combined for $6,100 in total incentives per car in May (including traditional incentives plus things like no-charge options, higher trade-in values and discount financing) — up nearly $600 versus year-ago levels,” the site said.

It was a strong month for virtually everyone (though Volkswagen (VLKAY.PK) continued to struggle), even despite GM’s many recall efforts during the period. Here are the 10 cars that outperformed the rest.

10. Honda CR-V

Adding 18.8 percent to its sales over May of last year, with a total of 32,430 units moved, Honda’s (NYSE:HMC) popular CR-V crossover brought its year-to-date total sales to 128,563 cars, putting its sales performance throughout the first three months of the year at 7.9 percent above the same period in 2013. Despite redesigns to the Toyota RAV4 and the Ford Escape, the CR-V has remained a consistent strong seller in Honda’s portfolio.

9. Ford Fusion

The 2013 redesign of the Ford (NYSE:F) Fusion catapulted its sales figures to levels still seen this year, and May proved to be a fruitful month for the popular sedan. Ford sold 33,881 Fusion sedans during the month, bringing its year-to-date total to 137,894 units — a 14.6 percent monthly gain, which leaves the Fusion just ahead of the curve set last year, up 0.8 percent for the first five months of the year.

8. Nissan Altima

Nissan’s driving force behind its U.S. surge of 18.8 percent can be at least in part attributed to the 12.9 percent leap that the Altima experienced (though the hot-selling 2014 Rogue likely had something to do with it, too). The Altima has so far sold 150,342 units this year (36,053 in May alone), which leaves the model up 6.7 percent over the first five months of 2013. The sales figures come in just as Nissan announces the pricing and a miles per gallon nudge for the 2015 Altima (at least, the one loaded with the V6).

7. Honda Civic

The small changes that Honda made to its popular Civic are having a big effect, as the company moved 36,089 units during the month of May, a 19.2 percent gain above the sales seen in the year-ago month. Year to date, Honda has sold 134,796 Civic compacts, representing a 4.5 percent gain for the five-month period year over year. There are seven variations of the Honda Civic, like the Hybrid or the Si, so a wide swath of people are assured that there’s the right model for them.

6. Toyota Corolla

Popular the Civic may be, Toyota’s Corolla — which got a full redesign for 2014 — is proving to be more so among American auto shoppers, at least in the last month. Toyota sold 36,611 units in May (edging the Civic out by just 522 units), a whopping 30.8 percent leap over the figure from the year-ago month. Year to date, Toyota has sold 143,409 Corolla units for a five-month gain of 8.2 percent.

5. Ram Pickup

Ram (FIATY.PK) has had an exceptionally strong year so far, and its momentum carried through May, despite being bumped into fifth place on the list due to the exceptional demand for the leading vehicles. Ram tacked on a 17.2 percent gain for last month, with 37,131 units moved, which keeps the pickup 21.4 percent ahead of the same five month-period from last year. Since January, Ram has sold 170,711 pickups.

4. Honda Accord

One of America’s favorite sedans (second favorite, to be precise), the Honda Accord, saw sales gain 19.2 percent for May with 39,637 models moved off the dealer lots. For the year so far, Honda has actually seen demand fall versus the first five months of 2013 by 1.4 percent, to 152,949 units, and although the company has yet to release the plug-in hybrid variant and just released the new conventional hybrid version, it’s unlikely that these models will contribute greatly to sales volume.

3. Chevrolet Silverado

Though it’s generally the No. 2 contender among the top sellers, Chevrolet’s Silverado was bumped into third place despite adding 7.8 percent onto sales from May of last year, with 46,678 units sold. The Silverado is still comfortably ahead on the year, though, at 5.9 percent up through the first five months versus the same period a year ago. Perhaps most interestingly, the numerous recalls that General Motors has initiated haven’t shown any detrimental effect on Chevy’s truck sales.

2. Toyota Camry

Despite its aging appearance and a replacement generation on the horizon, Toyota’s venerable Camry soared 26.2 percent during the month of May to 49,584 units, leaving the popular sedan up for the year so far by 5.9 percent versus the same period of last year. The redesigned Camry, which will feature bolder and more exciting styling (a common critique of the current model), is slated for release later this year.

1. Ford F-Series

The perennial best seller retained its title through May, as Ford’s F-Series line of pickups sold 68,520 units – down 4.3 percent versus the same month a year ago, though Ford has an ample margin to work with before losing its best-selling crown. So far this year, Ford has sold 305,265 F-Series trucks, a level that remains 1.9 percent above sales from the year-ago period/ However, the real test will come later this year, when Ford’s production is constrained for factory retooling.

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