Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: May 2011


May was a mixed bag in terms of new-car sales. Demand was down slightly because of a drop in incentives, and the supply of some Japanese brands was down because of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami earlier this year.

Unsurprisingly, Japan’s big three automakers saw sales decline from May 2010. Toyota was off the most, down a tremendous 27.9% from May 2010. Its Lexus division was down 40%.

The two other major Japanese brands were less impacted but still saw large declines. Honda was off by 16.1% and Nissan by 9%. While not as big a seller as the other three, Subaru was down 15.3% after months of strong sales.

Ford and GM saw sales flatten from last year, losing 0.1% and 1.2% respectively, despite huge growth in small-car sales. Ford’s new 2012 Focus saw sales up 31.7% to 22,303 units, and Chevy’s Cruze had another strong month, besting the Focus with 22,711 units sold.

The third domestic automaker, Chrysler, saw sales increase 10% with its best May since 2008. Three vehicles were responsible for the bulk of the growth: the new Chrysler 200 sedan and the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango SUVs.

Chrysler passed Toyota and Honda to become the third best-selling automaker in the U.S. in May behind GM and Ford.

There were plenty of bright spots, especially for Korean brands Kia and Hyundai, which had sales spikes 53% and 21%, respectively, on the strength of their midsize sedans. Hyundai’s new Elantra compact increased sales with 20,006 units sold. Only the Sonata sold more with 22,754 units. Kia sold a record 11,157 of its Soul compact utility vehicle, making it the No. 2 best-selling vehicle for the brand. The 2012 Soul will be out later this summer. The Sorento was Kia’s top seller in May.

European brands did well, too, especially Volkswagen and Porsche. VW’s new Jetta led its best sales month in more than seven years, moving more than 16,000 units. Sales of Porsche’s Cayenne SUV helped rocket the brand up 50% over last May.

By David Thomas | June 1, 2011 | Comments (32)
Tags: Best Sellers



I know it hurt to put together this list. Ford and gm were flat, but that was due to lower fleet sales. Both posted retail sales gains in may and unlike 2008 both are well positioned to cash in on unanticipated circumstances. If they didn't have worthy cars to sell they wouldn't even benefit from the supplier parts shortages facing the japanese.


My brother said, Toyota dealer near his house has empty lot. All cars are sold, nothing to sell besides some big trucks and minivans.

Derrick G's own inventory shows about normal levels for most Toyotas and Hondas and both have said that the shortages aren't nearly as bad as feared. Some dealers may have sold out by offering good deals to those who panicked, but looks like for the most part many tried to hold cars hostage but with little effect. In fact, you'd have a much harder time finding an Elantra or Focus to buy than those cars that usually outsell them. There are plenty of Cruzes out there, but then again GM sold plenty, too.

Elantra and Focus are definitely hard to find.

As for Civic/Accord, Corolla/Camry it would be strange for all 4 to drop off so significantly for any other reason than a supply issue. For Civic throw in the new model changeover and it really seems like supply. If they've been top sellers for decades this would really seem like an anomaly.

Brian G.

I work for a division of Cendant and recently we've received our new fleet of General Motors vehicles. The Regional Rep told me GM had record first quarter fleet sales as the incentives haven't been this good since mid 2009. It's obvious those sales are now being reflected in the sales numbers as publicly traded companies can't release new sales figures until the vehicle has been delivered due to SEC Revenue Recognition policies. I can't blame GM for their large fleet sales as once they got that revenue stream going it's hard to turn away from.


so what's wrong if gm sales cars to fleet.? All the car companies are here to do business.If they can afford to sell the vehicles with discounts good for them. If
Gm sales a vehicles and makes profit its good for workers, suppliers, dealers and other jobs supported by this. However some jap lovers makes this a big issue all the time and argue like small kids.


I think most of GMs fleet sales are attributed to older models like Impala which is end of life. Whats amazing is how well the domestics are doing. People will say thats due to tsunami etc etc. Theres only one reason and one reason alone...high quality cars that people want to buy. Period.

Derrick G

Well there are real supply problems and there are imagined ones. Our local paper today had a front-page story on Toyota customers and dealers saying supplies were fine, but traffic was way down, presumably because many folks thought there were no cars out there or that there'd be no deals on the ones that were there.


If one can't comprehend why fleet sales hurt a brands value while also diluting the company's earnings per share then you are seriously stupid.


It's quite amazing to see only one last standing Japanese in the top ten. And it had to be a Nissan.


Inevntory is hardly the whole story. The top selling asian branded sedans are made in the us and as has pointed out the japanese models built here have high levels of us content. Edmunds has already noted that supplies of many japanese models weren't even that low but customers were shopping elsewhere due to perceived lack of product. In addition, the japanese brands cut incentives due to the production issues and sales dropped accordingly. Toyota said its sales picked up after it reinstated incentives. The story here is that the domestics and hyundai are so competitive that people will chose their products over the japanese products if incentives aren't in the mix. Toyota had to bring incentives back just to get showroom traffic back. The top 10 list is likely to look different for the whole summer unless incentives are cranked up by toyota and nissan. Toyota said production will be back in june so there will be no more excuses after that.



Insults aside, fleet sales were down for gm and ford last month. Cruze had highest retail month ever. These sales are not due to fleet success. The focus just came out and ford hardly needs to rely on low margin fleet sales to boost sales of this model.


were all those Focus sales 2012 MY's? & i've seen quite a few '12 Focus' at the rental lot at my local airport, esp in hatch form!

Derrick G


No, they weren't all 2012's as Ford doesn't break out sales by MY, as is customary, but not everyone's practice. But right now on's inventory less than a sixth of the Focus inventory is NOT a 2012, so the older ones are pretty much sold through.

It's also pretty common than earliest production goes to fleets, who you'd rather have the first attempts anyway. Plus it gets the cars on the road right away for others to see.

Davin Peterson

Hello, Toyota is missing from the list.

Derrick G

Yes Davin, I think that's already been discussed. And it's definitely not an error.

Derrick G

Just realized Elantra's not number 10. Ram P/U is at 20,117. Ooops.

Conducting researches like this will help people gain information.

Great selling cars blog here I found, thanks!!!

Victor J

Why does GM insist on selling the majority of it's cars to rental car companies!? This makes me so angry! I have three more payments and then I can trade my Malibu for a Sonata. I'm tired of driving a rental car!


Someone has to put the stupid animal back in its cage...

Inevntory is hardly the whole story.
-Actually it is the only story.

The story here is that the domestics and hyundai are so competitive that people will chose their products over the japanese products if incentives aren't in the mix.
-Right, lets take a look at all months prior to May for this year:

Where was the Cruze in any of these lists... not there, except once, and still outsold by an old model Civic (don't mention those fleets though, makes em real mad... ohhh).

But the incentives must have been pretty steep for an Accord, Civic, and Camry... you have got to be kidding.

Derrick G

Cruze sales don't tell the whole story. Look here:

The trend lately is very clear: incentives drive the sales of the J3 and when they go down, so do sales. Not true lately for the D3. HK isn't shown, but their incentives have been dropping lately, too, while their sales continue to rise.


Derrick, you did look at those graphs right?

"The reasons for the unusual May were pretty clear. It was when Toyota, Honda, Nissan and other Japanese automakers confronted for the first time the full impact of the supply disruptions wrought by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami."

Derrick G

Of course I looked at them. But for GM and Chrysler, sales haven't been hurt by incentive cuts since March. And for Toyota and Nissan, the sales slide with incentive reductions start in April, well before inventories would have seen any issues from the quake/tsunami.

Thanks! We're fixing it. Cutting it close!


@ Victor J,

Ha,you will be angier as Hyundai sells a ton of vehicles to rental lots,as does Honda,Toyota !! I drove a Hyundai Sonata for 2 weeks waiting to get my settlement from my insurance company,and was driving a new Sonata.Personally I didnt like it,had 50 miles on the odometer and it sqeeked over speed bumps,un even roads and only averaged 22 mpg !!
Worse on gas than my 120,000 mile 2005 Hemi 300 unfortunately it totalled..


Well, i hope that the japanese companies realize the shortfall of supplying everything from japan and start building more parts in usa.
What goes around comes around let's all buy product made in usa.

Derrick G


Are you implying Chrysler doesn't sell much to rental fleets? Because the truth is Chrysler is the undisputed ruler of the daily renter world. For 2010, just about every other Chrysler sold went into a rental fleet.

Derrick G

By the way, Honda has never sold a whole lot to fleet and the numbers for the current generation Sonata are way down, below every competitor except Accord.

This is so much cool.Every month there is a bundle of people who purchase their cars.

This survey can help people decide which car to buy. For me, the car's quality is the most important feature to look at.

Amazed to see Nissan at number 4. I thought it to be at number 2 or 3 but number 4 still close.

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