Automakers reported a strong sales pace in May, helped by a improved consumer confidence, lower unemployment and moderate gas prices that propelled sales of pickups and SUVs, according to a USA Today report.

Autodata reported that sales improved 1.6% compared to the same month last year, the more significant figure was a seasonally adjusted sales rate that would, if it were to be maintained, put the industry on pace to sell almost 17.8 million new vehicles. That standard industry measure points to the most torrid sales pace since July, 2005, Kelley Blue Book said.

Individual automakers reported mixed results because their monthly tallies were skewed by there having been one less selling day last month compared to the year before. Among Detroit’s Big 3, GM’s overall sales rose 3% in May, Fiat Chrysler sold 4% more new vehicles in May than the same month last year and Ford was down 1.3%, Autodata says.

But there was no doubt in the industry that automakers had, overall, seen a month of near-record sales, beating expectations.

“The auto industry is on fire,” declared Eric Lyman, senior analyst for TrueCar, an auto sales web site. “We’re still seeing that automotive is driving growth in the economy.”

Unlike a decade ago when automakers were churning out more vehicles than they could sell profitably, the latest cycle is unfolding in way that’s likely to bring record profits as well.

For the full story click here.