Toyota Motor estimates that U.S. sales of new vehicles in May were “beyond expectations” but still down compared to a year ago due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bob Carter, executive vice president of sales for Toyota Motor North America, said the pace of sales picked up in May, averaging 12 million vehicles on an annualized basis. That means if the same number of vehicles were sold every month throughout the year, that would be the industry’s total sales for 2020. That compares to an annualized sales rate of 8.6 million vehicles in April. 

“Retail consumers are coming out looking for cars and trucks,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “What hasn’t yet returned to the auto industry is the fleet commercial buyer, particularly rental car. Those sales continue to be suppressed at about 20%.”

Auto research firms expect new vehicle sales to be slightly less than 1.1 million vehicles in May, down by about 32% to 33% compared to May 2019. While better than expected, the industry’s sales are still a long way off from last year when automakers sold more than 17 million vehicles. 

Robert “Bob” Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations at Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., speaks during an event at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Toyota and other automakers such as Hyundai Motor and Honda Motor are scheduled to report last month’s sales Tuesday. General Motors, Ford Motor and other major automakers in recent years switched from monthly sales reports to quarterly reports, so their monthly numbers are forecasted.

Carter said seven of the company’s roughly 1,500 U.S. dealers have been impacted by protesting and rioting following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

“The rioting, we believe, is unacceptable as is any form of racism,” he said. “We’re counseling our dealers to first be safe themselves, product their customers, protect our consumers. we’ll get through this and  there are better days ahead.”

A worker cleans a counter while another worker, wearing a protective mask, sits behind a plastic shield at a General Motors Co. Buick and GMC car dealership in Woodbridge, New Jersey, U.S, on Wednesday, May 20, 2020.

Angus Mordant | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Hyundai on Tuesday reported a 12.9% decline in sales last month as many consumers continued to shelter in their homes and some dealerships were limited in their operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We were able to achieve a remarkable retail sales rebound thanks to our dealer partners, implementation of digital retail tools and providing customers with the right offers,” Randy Parker, Hyundai Motor America vice president of National Sales, said in a release.

Mazda Motor reported only a 1% decline in sales for last month compared to a year earlier. Sales for the year remain off 10.5%, the company said Tuesday

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