STAFF AND AP REPORTS
DETROIT (AP) -- Full-size pickups once again dominated U.S. auto sales in May, as small businesses -- increasingly confident in the economy -- raced to replace the aging pickups they held on to during the recession.
Car-buyers, too, were lured by low interest rates and Memorial Day sales.
Overall, U.S. consumers bought 1.4 million vehicles in May, up 8 percent from the same month a year ago, according to Autodata Corp.
Most automakers topped analysts' expectations last month, with Nissan reporting its highest May sales ever after cutting prices on seven popular models.
"Our Nissan sales have been up greatly," said Russ Kauffeld, general manager of Bachman Bernard Nissan-Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram.
"Sales have actually been crazy," Kauffeld said. "We're on pace for the best sales year ever since we've had Nissan (1981)," Kauffeld told The Greeneville Sun Wednesday in an interview.
While all Nissan models are selling quickly, Kauffeld said the Nissan Rogue SUV and Nissan Frontier pickup have been the most popular.
Chrysler, Ford, Honda and Toyota also reported increases nationwide. Only Volkswagen's sales were down from last May.
Automakers sold 173,972 full-size pickups in May, the highest total since a year-end rush last December, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank.
Sales of Ford's F-Series pickup, which is the country's best-selling vehicle, rose 31 percent to a six-year high of 71,604 nationally.
That comes as no surprise to Kevin Ross, sales manager at Gateway Ford.
"The F-Series has always been number one for us," Ross said in an interview with the Sun. "It dominates the competition like none other. It's our top Ford product."
F-Series sales at Gateway Ford have been up since the start of the year, Ross said.
Gateway Ford is the number one Ford dealer in its zone, which includes parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, Ross added.
Ford said in early May that it's adding 2,000 workers to the Kansas City, Mo., plant that makes the F-150.
General Motors and Chrysler also posted full-size truck sales gains of more than 20 percent.
The Federal Reserve's low interest rate policies have helped sales by keeping loan rates low.
A 48-month new-car loan now averages 2.92 percent, according to Bankrate.com.
Strong sales of pickups in May -- not typically a blowout month for trucks -- signal that businesses feel more certain about the future, said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for the TrueCar.com auto pricing site.