DETROIT — Total U.S. car sales fell 14.3% in May, as domestic producers posted a 17.7% decline and imports dipped 4.7%, the auto makers reported Wednesday.
May is traditionally considered one of the best selling periods of the year for the auto industry, but sales have been sluggish all year so far. That is partly because many buyers were enticed to make their purchases late in 1986, rather than wait until 1987, in order to take advantage of tax breaks that were eliminated under the new tax law.
Among the major domestic manufacturers, General Motors, which has been plagued by weak sales over the past year, posted a decline of 31.3% last month, compared to May, 1986. Ford, which has gained market share at the expense of GM in recent months, said its sales rose 0.2% during the same period. Chrysler, which has also had fairly strong sales over the past year, posted a decline of 21.9%.
American Motors, which has just agreed to be acquired by Chrysler, said it sold just 2,883 cars during the month, down 41.6% from the 5,117 units it sold in May, 1986. Volkswagen of America said it sold 7,862 cars, up 8.7%.
Meanwhile, the U.S. operations of the Japanese auto makers continued to make strong inroads into the domestic market.
Honda, which has built cars in Ohio since 1982, said its sales of U.S.-built cars rose 67.8%. Nissan said its sales of domestic cars rose 1,555.6% to 14,923, compared to just 943 in May, 1986, when its factory was closed. Toyota, which just started producing cars for its own distribution system in the GM-Toyota joint venture plant in Fremont, Calif., last fall, said it sold 4,463 U.S.-built units during the month.
Among the major Japanese firms, Toyota said its sales of imported cars fell 15.6% during May, compared to a year ago, while Nissan posted a decline of 43.5%. Honda said its import sales declined 3.9%.
AUTO SALES Percentage changes in auto sales for the month of May are based on daily rates rather than total sales volume. There were 25 selling days in the current period and 26 selling days in the year-ago period.
% May 1987 1986 change GM 304,884 461,559 -31.3 Ford 80,328 187,133 +0.2 Chrysler 80,955 107,867 -21.9 Honda U.S. 26,005 16,132 +67.8 AMC* 2,883 5,117 -41.6 VW U.S.* 7,862 7,517 +8.7 Nissan U.S. 14,923 943 +1555 Toyota U.S. 4,463 -- -- DOMESTIC 622,303 786,268 -17.7 Toyota Imp. 50,677 62,489 -15.6 Nissan Imp. 25,732 47,343 -43.5 Honda Imp. 35,887 38,829 -3.9 Mazda 15,129 16,853 -6.6 Subaru 16,129 14,265 +17.7 VW Imp. 15,208 16,397 -3.5 Volvo 10,175 10,146 +4.4 Hyundai 22,383 13,963 +66.6 Others* 69,680 64,666 +12.1 IMPORTS* 261,000 284,951 -4.7 Total U.S. 883,303 1,071,219 -14.3