DETROIT - Despite fewer discounts and a stock-market plunge last month, Americans snapped up new automobiles for another month of higher sales.
The auto industry's double-digit jump in sales shows that consumers feel the economy is healthy enough for them to buy a new vehicle. It's easier to get a car loan, and gas prices are holding steady.
May marked the seventh straight month of year-over-year sales increases for the auto industry.
Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., and Chrysler Group L.L.C. saw double-digit sales gains over the same month last year, when GM was headed into bankruptcy, joining Chrysler. Ford's sales announcement Wednesday came on the day it said it would end production of its Mercury brand by the end of this year.
Most Asian and European-based automakers also posted big gains last month.
The exception was Toyota Motor Corp. The Japanese automaker has relied on generous discounts the last three months to keep its sales afloat after huge safety recalls. Those incentives appeared to lose their luster in May, because sales rose just 7 percent. Only Lexus matched the performance of rivals. The luxury brand saw sales rise 31 percent.
Toyota said its sales didn't rise as sharply in May because rivals had more favorable year-over-year comparisons.
Industrywide sales rose just over 19 percent in May compared with last year, and 12.3 percent compared with April, according to Autodata Corp.
Ford sales rose 22 percent, boosted by strong demand for the F-Series pickup and new Ford Mustang. GM sales rose 17 percent, led by a jump in sales of its four remaining brands - Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac - and big orders from fleet customers, such as rental car agencies.
Chrysler enjoyed the biggest boost of the three, with sales surging 33 percent. May was the first month in more than two years that Chrysler sold more than 100,000 vehicles, helped by strong sales of its Jeep Wrangler, pickup trucks, and minivans.
Other automakers that reported sales Wednesday:
Honda Motor Co.'s sales climbed 19 percent, with the Accord and Civic sedans and Pilot SUV all seeing increases of more than 30 percent.
South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. had its best May ever, with sales up 33 percent. The company said sales of the newly redesigned Sonata sedan nearly doubled. Sales of the new Tucson SUV jumped 227 percent.
Nissan Motor Co.'s May sales rose 25 percent, on strong demand for sedans such as the Versa, Sentra, and Altima.
Sales for Subaru of America Inc., Cherry Hill, rose 35 percent on brisk sales of the Outback wagon and Forester SUV.
Kia Motor's sales rose 21 percent on strong demand for new models such as the Forte, Sorento, and Soul.