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Auto sales in U.S. see best month since July 2005

DETROIT – Brisk demand for SUVs and pickup trucks – and five sunny weekends – pushed U.S. auto sales to a nine-year high in May.

Chrysler, Nissan and Toyota all reported double-digit sales gains over last May. Even General Motors, battling bad publicity from a mishandled recall, surprised with a 13 percent sales increase.

Ford’s sales rose a better-than-expected 3 percent, while Hyundai’s were up 4 percent. Of major automakers, only Volkswagen’s sales fell.

May is traditionally a strong month for the auto industry, as buyers spend their tax returns and think ahead to summer road trips.

This year’s calendar, with five weekends, gave it an extra boost. Sales were particularly strong the last weekend of the month, automakers said.

Sales rose 11 percent to just over 1.6 million in May. That was the highest monthly total since July 2005, according to auto valuation company Kelley Blue Book.

June should bring more of the same, said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book.

GM said May was its best month since August 2008.

Brauer said buyers haven’t been deterred by GM’s multiple recalls – 13.8 million vehicles so far this year – and questions about how long the company took to report safety problems in older cars.

Toyota’s sales increased 17 percent over last May.

Sales for other automakers:

• Honda’s sales rose 9 percent. Accord midsize car sales rose 19 percent to nearly 40,000.

• Nissan’s sales jumped 19 percent on strong demand for new vehicles, including the Sentra small car and Rogue SUV.

• Chrysler’s sales rose 17 percent, boosted by strong demand for the Ram pickup and the new Jeep Cherokee small SUV. Jeep brand sales set an all-time monthly sales record, with 70,203 vehicles sold in May.

• Hyundai said May was its best month ever in the U.S., with total sales of 70,907. Santa Fe SUV sales jumped 49 percent, while sales of Hyundai’s luxury Equus and Genesis sedans rose 25 percent each.

• Volkswagen sales fell 15 percent as the brand prepared to launch the new Golf compact car.