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General Motors' sales of new vehicles does not appear to have suffered from its widely publicized series of recalls, some of them linked to fatalities.

GM said sales in May were up 13% from a year ago for its best month since August 2008. That trumped Ford Motor's rise of 3% but lagged Chrysler Group's booming 17% gain.

May auto sales "seemed almost to defy logic. In a month that included dismal consumer confidence scores and the announcement that the American economy as a whole had actually contracted in the first quarter, auto sales were very robust.," said Jack Nerad, senior analyst for KBB.com.

"General Motors' sales results epitomized that trend of defying logic," Nerad said. "GM announced a near-record number of recalls during May, yet it turned in its best monthly sales since August 2008, the last month before the financial meltdown that triggered the Great Recession."

GM's strong sellers included the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan, up 41% and the Spark mini-car, which posted sales twice as good as a year ago.

The redesigned, 2015 full-size Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon also were strong performers.

FORD MOTOR said its May sales of new cars and trucks were up a modest 3%, to 254,084.

The Fusion midsize sedan and Escape crossover SUV both recorded the most sales for May in the history of those models, Ford said.

John Felice, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said larger crossover SUVs did well, too, and Explorer continued to gain ground in the midsize utility segment with its best monthly sales performance in nearly 10 years.

Lincoln, struggling for an identity, got help from its MKZ, the premium brand's version of the Fusion, which "saw its best May ever," Felice said.

Nerad said that while Ford's 3% gain "might not seem as impressive as the double-digit gains of its Detroit-based competitors, the numbers mask the fact that Ford enjoyed its best May sales at retail in a decade on the strength of a 6-percent gain. Ford can also take heart from the record sales performance of the Lincoln MKZ, an indicator that the Lincoln Motor Company ad theme might be resonating with consumers."

FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOTIVE: Chrysler lived up to analysts' forecasts, reporting May sales of new cars and trucks up 17.4% from a year earlier, to 194,421 vehicles, making it Chrysler's best May since 2007 before the Great Recession.

In what's become a common refrain, the car company said its Jeep brand was a star, up 58% and setting its third consecutive monthly sales record. And again Ram trucks were strong.

"Chrysler sales for May weren't just up; the rise might be described as meteoric," said Nerad.

Jeep's 58% "was especially impressive," Nerad said, "and it was accompanied by noteworthy gains by Ram trucks and Fiat. One interesting aspect of Chrysler's success for the month is that both big trucks and small cars enjoyed double-digit gains, a rarity.

Chrysler Group is the main U.S. unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and includes Fiat sales in its reports.

Chrysler results by brand:

  • Jeep: The 58% increase was the best monthly tally in its history. The small Compass, iconic Wrangler and new Cherokee each reported their best monthly sales ever.
  • Ram: The brand's full-size pickup was up 17%, the best sales for that month since 2005. Within that, sales of the heavy-duty version of the pickup jumped 34%, signaling strong commercial interest as businesses that put off replacing old machines during the recession find the economy stable enough to take the plunge on new work vehicles.
  • Chrysler: The namesake brand sales fell 22%, reflecting, the automaker says, the discontinuance of its 200 sedan. The redesigned replacement 200 sedan began arriving at dealers in May, and strong early orders give the company very high expectations for a strong launch. The Town & Country minivan jumped 37%.
  • Dodge: The company's mainstream brand was up just 3%. Still, it was Dodge's best May since 2007. And Dart, Journey and Challenger set records.
  • Fiat: Still a tiny presence in the USA, fielding only the 500 mini-car and larger 500L, the Italian brand was up 18% and had its best month since returning to the USA in 2011.
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