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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. posted surprise gains in U.S. sales for May as carmakers offered richer deals to consumers to clear mounting inventory.
Toyota’s U.S. sales rose 3.2%, Fiat Chrysler’s increased 2.1% and Nissan’s inched up 0.1% last month, all exceeding analysts’ average projections in a Bloomberg News survey. Honda Motor Co.’s deliveries fell 4.9%, a worse drop than was expected.
Deliveries of the RAV4, the small sport utility vehicle that’s supplanted the Camry sedan as Toyota’s top seller, surged 14% to 43,499, a record for any month. It’s the second month in a row of growth for the key crossover after a lackluster first quarter.
The Ram brand carried the load again for Fiat Chrysler, driven by a 33% surge for its pickup model, while Jeep sales slid a fifth straight month. Interest rates for new vehicles averaged 6.1% in May, the lowest this year, according to car-shopping researcher Edmunds, as automakers offered more 0% financing deals as part of their Memorial Day promotions.
New-vehicle inventory has exceeded 4 million units every month this year and may have had something to do with all the discounting — that’s near peak levels in Automotive News data going back to 2000. “Shoppers who made it to the dealership on Memorial Day weekend were lucky enough to snag some of the best deals we’ve seen all year,” Jeremy Acevedo, Edmunds’ manager of industry analysis, said in a statement.