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sales are surging an estimated 90% in May, leading automakers to another month of impressive gains as U.S. auto sales continue to be one of the brightest spots in a mixed economy.

"Toyota's recovery from the natural disasters has happened at a breakneck pace and sales this month for Toyota will be the highest we have seen in a few years led by strong sales of the Camry and Prius," said analyst Jesse Toprak, in a prepared statement.

Automakers will report May sales figures June 1, but three leading automotive intelligence firms are offering forecasts that show overall gains between 21% and 32%, with total May sales at 1.4 million. The forecast prompted LMC Automotive to raise its full-year light vehicle sales forecast to 14.5 million, up from 14.3 million. projected double-digit sales gains for all of the top six manufacturers, ranging from lows of 11.4% at


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and 16.3% at


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to 90% at Toyota. Second best is

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with a 50% gain.

In terms of market share, Edmunds projectd that Toyota will gain 4.5%, while GM and Ford are expected to slip 3.1% and 2%, respectively.

"The resurgence of Japanese automakers comes at the expense of U.S. manufacturers whose market shares are coming back to earth after gains in the months following the earthquake," said. Still, said it expects that GM will report its highest monthly sales total since September 2008.

Top three market shares belong to GM with 18%, Ford with 15.2% and Toyota at 15%.

U.S. light vehicle sales have been gaining steadily for three and a half years, from 10.4 million in 2009 to 11.6 million in 2010 to 12.8 million in 2012. said the current month will be the best May since 2007; estimated the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate will be 14.4 million.

"Almost halfway through the year, the auto industry keeps chugging along toward a mid-14 million unit sales pace," said Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell, in a prepared statement. "With continued pent-up demand and consumers gaining more and more access to credit, there's every reason to believe that sales can continue at this rate through the rest of the year."

J.D. Power said retail sales, which include cars sold directly to consumers, should total 1.1 million units, up 20%, the largest year-over-year gain since February 2011, when retail sales increased 27% over the same month the previous year.

"The fact that we continue to see strong month-over-month results in retail sales points to the underlying strength of the recovery for the industry," said J.D. Power analyst John Humphrey, in a prepared statement.

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

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