DETROIT - Brisk demand for SUVs and pickup trucks -- and a strong Memorial Day weekend -- was expected to push U.S. auto sales to a seven-year high in May.
Nissan's U.S. sales jumped 19 percent over last May as buyers snapped up the new Sentra small car and Rogue SUV.
Even General Motors, in the throes of a recall crisis, saw sales rise 13 percent from a year ago. Sales of the Chevrolet Corvette more than tripled, while GMC Sierra pickup truck sales rose 14 percent.
Other automakers are set to report sales later Tuesday.
Analysts expect sales to rise 7 percent to 8 percent to 1.56 million in May, helping erase doubts about the strength of the industry. January and February sales were weaker than expected as consumers spent more time shoveling snow than shopping.
"We're still recovering from the low first-quarter numbers that we saw," said Jeff Schuster, executive vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive, an industry consulting firm. "It's the continued recovery in the summer selling season, kind of everything aligning in the month of May."
May traditionally is among the best sales months every year, and Schuster said last month's sales were strong even without big discounts by automakers.
Auto sales have led the uneven U.S. economic recovery for the last few years, and Schuster expects that to continue. But the pace is expected to slow as annual sales top a natural peak of around 16 million. U.S. auto sales totaled 15.6 million in 2013, up from 10.4 million at the depths of the recession in 2009.