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Ford May Sales Gain 14% While GM and Toyota Rise 3%

DETROIT (TheStreet) -- Rising pickup truck and utility sales again led to sales gains in May for the Detroit Three, but GM (GM) trailed its peers as its fleet sales fell.

Ford (F) sales gained 14% while Chrysler sales rose 11% and GM sales rose 3%. Overall industry sales were up about 9%, Ford estimated. Toyota (TM) said its May sales rose 2.5%.

On the Ford sales call, Ford analyst Erich Merkle said sales of small vehicles, including small utilities, and pickup trucks are leading the auto industry recovery. For the month, small utilities accounted for 14% of industry sales, while pickup trucks accounted for 11.7% of industry sales, almost 2 points higher than a year earlier, Merkle said.

GM lagged despite a 40% gain in Cadillac sales to 13,808. Buick sales fell 3% to 17,982 while Chevrolet sales gained just 1% to 179,510 as Malibu sales slid 36% to 18,899. GM on Friday introduced a new 2014 Malibu. Sales of the Silverado pickup truck rose 25% to 43,283 and sales of Cruze, the top-selling GM car, rose 18% to 23,055.

GM overall sold 252,894 vehicles in the United States in May, its highest monthly sales total since September 2008. Retail sales increased 9%, but fleet sales were down 10%.

"Cadillac is growing faster than it has in almost 40 years, the pickup rebound is in full swing and we're seeing strong retail demand for our crossovers," said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations, in a prepared statement. "These are all powerful signs that the gradual recovery in the economy is becoming more broad-based."

Ford said its May sales of 239,280 were the highest since 2006, with retail sales up 17%. Escape sales rose 26% to 29,123, its best month ever. Fusion had its best-ever May with sales up 10% to 29,553. F-Series sales rose 31% to 71,604, its best May since 2005 and the first time since May 2007 that F-Series sales exceeded 70,000.

"Our fuel-efficient Fusion and Escape have set monthly sales records for four straight months," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, in a prepared statement. "F-Series sales -- fueled by construction growth and pent-up demand -- reached their highest level in more than six years."

Lincoln MKZ sales increased 42%, but overall Lincoln sales were flat at 7,305 units.

Chrysler Group said sales of its best-selling vehicle, the Ram pickup truck, rose 22% to 31,672 units, likely an indication that, as expected, pickup truck sales continued to gain as home construction picks up. Overall Chrysler Group said sales rose 11% to 166,596, its best May since 2007.

GM Cadillac's year-to-date sales increase of 38% will be the brand's largest since 1976, while its 40% May sales gain will mark its 12th consecutive month of sales growth. "Cadillac is back." said Bob Ferguson, vice president, Global Cadillac, in a prepared statement.

During the month, sales of Chrysler brand cars fell 2%, reflecting an 18% decline by the Chrysler 300 to 5,011 units. Dodge brand sales rose 23%, with Durango sales were up 24% to 4,759 units; Dodge Dart sales were 7,448. Jeep sales rose 1%, to 44,419, reflecting the discontinuation of the Liberty and a 13% gain to 16,272 for Wrangler, the best-selling Jeep. .

"Our best May sales in six years enabled us to extend our sales streak to 38-consecutive months of year-over-year sales gains," said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales, in a prepared statement. "We continue to see strong retail sales throughout our product lineup as eight Chrysler Group vehicles set sales records in May, including best sales ever by the Jeep Wrangler and Compass."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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