DETROIT - Saying "small was big in May," General Motors Vice President of Sales Kurt McNeil said the hot-selling Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze small car experienced its best May sales ever.
May auto sales, released Monday, showed a 17.5 percent increase in Cruze sales from last year. In all, 23,055 new car buyers took delivery on Cruzes, over 19,613 a year ago. Year-to-date, the Cruze remains up 6.2 percent from last year at this time.
Reporting its best retail sales month since August 2009, Chevrolet's 179,510 new car deliveries helped U.S. auto sales rebound last month after a slight dip in April.
GM reported its strongest monthly sales since September 2008. Chrysler, Ford, Toyota and Nissan reported increases. Only Volkswagen said sales fell compared with May of last year.
The strong sales are another sign that auto sales will continue to boost the U.S. economy, as consumers replace aging vehicles and businesses invest in trucks as they gain confidence.
Builders are buying pickup trucks at a rapid pace as home construction continues to rebound. Ford Motor Co. said sales of its F-Series pickup - the nation's best-selling vehicle - hit 71,604, their highest sales since March 2007. Chrysler Group said Ram pickup sales jumped 22 percent from last May to almost 32,000. Chevy Silverado sales rose 25 percent to more than 43,000.
May 2013: 23,055
May 2012: 19,613
Analysts say the strong May sales put the industry back on pace for full-year sales of more than 15 million.
"This quick rebound is just another example of how the auto industry is currently one of the most resilient areas of the overall economy," said Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst at car-shopping site Edmunds.com.
Truck sales, combined with increases in other vehicles, show that the economic recovery is sticking, said Kurt McNeil, GM's vice president of sales.
"These are all powerful signs that the gradual recovery in the economy is becoming more broad-based," he said in a statement.
Here's the breakdown of how the market's key players performed in May:
General Motors Co. sales rose 3 percent thanks to the continuing strength of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup. Cadillac brand sales rose nearly 40 percent. But Buick sales fell 3 percent, and sales of the Impala full-size car and Malibu midsize sedan plummeted more than 30 percent.
Ford sales rose 14 percent in May as the F-Series rose 31 percent. Other strong sellers included the Ford Fusion sedan, which gained 10 percent, and the Ford Escape was up 26 percent. Lincoln brand sales were flat. Ford plans to increase third-quarter North American production 10 percent to 740,000 vehicles. Second-quarter production is unchanged at 800,000.
Chrysler sales were up 11 percent on strong demand for the Ram and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV. Nissan sales gained 25 percent over a year ago. Toyota sales rose 2.5 percent in May to almost 208,000. The company said warmer weather and excellent Memorial Day sales drove up the total.
But Volkswagen sales fell 1.7 percent, with sales of all models falling but the Jetta, Beetle, Passat and Tiguan.
Tribune Chronicle Business Editor Brenda J. Linert and AP Auto Writer Dee-Ann Durbin contributed to this story.