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Crossover, Alternative Car Sales Helped Boost May Auto Industry Figures

Bruce Kennedy

More signs appeared this week of the auto industry's bounce-back from the depths of the recession: the industry reported better-than-expected new car sales in the U.S. last month.

The sale of 1.6 million vehicles, as well as strong sales figures for the growing alternative car market were reported.

The estimated average transaction price (ATP) for light vehicles in the U.S. was $32,307 last month. New car prices rose 2.1 percent last month, compared to May of 2013.

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Experts at Kelley Blue Book also noted that small and mid-sized car sales have declined slightly, as consumers opted for crossover vehicles.

KBB senior analyst Karl Brauer told Benzinga, the MDX – the popular, mid-sized SUV produced by Acura, a Honda (NYSE: HMC) subsidiary - “now comprises more than a third of Acura’s sales, boosting the brand’s transaction prices 5.5 percent year-over-year and helping keep Honda’s overall ATP flat.”

The Volkswagen Group (OTC: VLKAY) reported its ATP was up 5.5 percent in May, compared to last year. However, according to KBB senior analyst Alec Gutierrez, that data was due to an increase in sales of Volkswagen's Audi brand, coupled with a decrease in overall VW brand sales.

“Following the re-introduction of the entry-level A3 sedan, Audi’s average transaction price is down 2.5 percent year-over-year, while the Volkswagen brand is relatively flat,” he added.

KBB says Chrysler (OTC: FIATY) reported the best gains among the U.S. automakers, with an ATP rise up 4.8 percent compared to last year – due in part to its popular RAM brand, which was up 6.4 percent.

May was also a banner month for the alternative car market. According to Green Car Reports, Nissan (OTC: NSANF) sold over 3,100 of its electric Leaf vehicles in the U.S. last month – its best-ever one-month sales figures for that car. The Toyota (NYSE: TM) Prius, a plug-in hybrid, also set a new monthly record with nearly 2,700 units sold in May.

Ford (NYSE: F) also had its highest-ever monthly sales figure in May for its Fusion Energi sedan, with more than 1,342 sold.

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