May 2013 U.S. Auto Sales Forecast: Sales Seen Rebounding From April, With Ford Up By As Much As 20%; Nissan Seen Expanding, Too; GM Spent Most On Incentives

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GM Chevy Truck 2012
A Chevy truck.

Click here to read the results of May 2013 U.S. auto sales.

Major auto companies will release their May monthly U.S. sales figures on Monday, and the most bearish estimate expects the seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) to rise to at least 15 million units, from 14.9 million units in April and from 13.9 million in May 2012.

April is traditionally a “valley” month between higher sales in March and May, thanks to the annual U.S. income tax deadline, but April’s sub-15-million figure -- the first time the SAAR fell below 15 million since October -- raised some concern that the sales growth spurt that started last November was starting to fade.

“May sales quickly chased away any of last month’s concerns that the auto recovery is stalling,” said Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst at automotive information provider Edmunds.com.

And average of estimates put out by three leading auto intelligence services -- Edmunds.com, TrueCar.com and Kelley Blue Book -- suggests that 1,423,810 new-car units rolled off dealers’ lots in May, including company and government fleet sales, and that the SAAR will tick up to 15.1 million units. J.D. Powers and Wards Auto forecast 15.2 million while UBS Securities was more bullish with 15.3 million.

Here are some other year-over-year forecasts for how the auto sector fared in May. Based on the ratings from the three major industry forecasters, Nissan will see the best overall sales performance in May, while Toyota sales will be flat to down for the month. The three forecasts are split considerably over Chrysler’s predicted performance.

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) is expected by most forecasts to see upper single-digit to double-digit growth in sales -- as high as 20.1 percent from last year -- and market share increasing.

Kelley Blue Book's Forecasts

Worst May 2013 U.S. sales performance: Hyundai/Kia, down 3.2 percent to 115,000 units.

Best May 2013 U.S. sales performance: Nissan North America, Inc., up 19.8 percent to 110,000 units.

Worst U.S. market share contraction: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., down 1.1 percent to 14.1 percent.

Best U.S. market share expansion: Nissan North America, Inc., up 0.9 percent points to 7.8 percent.

Edmunds.com's Forecasts

Worst May 2013 U.S. sales performance: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., down 0.2 percent to 202,482 units.

Best May 2013 U.S. sales performance: Nissan North America, Inc., up 19.6 percent to 109,789 units.

Worst U.S. market share contraction: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., down 1 percentage point to 14.2 percent.

Best U.S. market share expansion: Nissan North America, Inc., up 0.8 percentage points to 7.7 percent.

TrueCar.com's Forecasts

Worst May 2013 U.S. sales performance: Chrysler Group LLC, down 6.2 percent to 139,436 units.

Best May 2013 U.S. sales performance: Nissan North America Inc., up 25.4 percent to 115,120 units.

Worst U.S. market share contraction: Chrysler Group LLC, down 1.5 percentage points to 9.7 percent.

Best U.S. market share expansion: Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F), up 1.7 percentage points to 17.2 percent.

Incentive Spending Outlook

TrueCar.com also provides incentive spending figures -- that’s how much each company spends on enticing customers to buy their cars through discounts.

The Detroit Three automakers traditionally spend the most while the Japanese carmakers tend to be tighter with the incentives. TrueCar.com believes General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM) spent the most on incentives in May, at $3,254 per unit, down 3.4 percent from the same month last year, while the Korean auto-making duo Hyundai/Kia likely spent the least, at $1,405 per unit, 13.1 percent more than in May 2012.

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