DETROIT — U.S. sales of cars and light trucks rose 13 percent in May when compared with April, even as two of the nation's automakers grappled with reorganizations.
Compared with May of last year, sales from major auto makers fell nearly 34 percent, according to Autodata estimates, but company executives said buyers may have become "desensitized" to news surrounding the bankruptcy protection filings of Chrysler and General Motors, and opted to enter showrooms.
"Obviously it gives us a lot of confidence that some of the negative issues we had to deal with are behind us," Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president of North American sales and marketing, said on a conference call.
General Motors, still the largest U.S. automaker in terms of market share, said that sales fell 30 percent from a year earlier but that they improved 11 percent from April.
Chrysler U.S. sales fell 47 percent in May, to 79,010 cars and light trucks. The company said its sales were pulled lower because it didn't sell any cars to fleet buyers such as rental car companies but that its retail sales to individual buyers were the best they've been all year.
With 789 dealers set to stop selling the company's cars next week, many of those purchases were fueled by deep discounts. Chrysler had the highest average incentive among automakers last month -- $4,159 per vehicle, according to Edmunds.com.
Ford posted even better results as it continued to snatch market share from its crosstown rivals, pushing past Toyota to capture the No. 2 spot in market share behind GM. Ford said its May U.S. sales fell 24 percent from last year but rose 20 percent from April, and its share of the U.S. market rose to the highest level since 2006.
Other automakers reported month-to-month improvements Tuesday. Toyota said its U.S. sales fell 40 percent from last year but climbed 21 percent from April. Honda reported its year-over-year volumes dropped 41 percent, while Nissan said sales fell 33 percent.
Automakers were optimistic that they had hit bottom.
"We're encouraged that consumers are beginning to return to showrooms," Don Esmond, a vice president at Toyota USA, said in a statement.
Ford sold 161,197 cars and light trucks in the U.S. last month. It sold a record number of Fusions -- 19,786 in May -- which was surpassed only by sales of its F-series pickups.
Ford says its better cars are driving sales and its increasing market share, not GM and Chrysler's troubles.
Ford decreased incentive spending in May but is launching a new program, "Drive the Ford Difference," this month, in which the company will pay three months of car payments, up to $2,100. Zero-percent financing will also be available on some vehicles.