What happened

Shares of General Motors (NYSE:GM) were rising on Wednesday after U.S. auto sales results for May came in somewhat better than expected. 

As of 2:45 p.m. EDT, GM's shares were up about 5.7% from Tuesday's closing price.

So what

May wasn't a good month for new-car sales in the U.S., but it was a lot better than April -- and the pace of sales was better than most analysts had expected. 

The seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of light vehicle sales, a widely watched figure, came in at 12.17 million, according to Automotive News. Forecasts from analysts at Edmunds, ALG, and Kelley Blue Book had ranged from 11.4 million to 11.8 million. That was a substantial improvement from April, when sales fell about 50% year over year and the SAAR was just 8.6 million.  

Chevrolet Silverado pickups on the production line at GM's assembly plant in Flint, Michigan.

GM's pickup-truck factories returned to three-shift operations on Monday. Image source: General Motors.

While GM no longer reports monthly sales results for the U.S., its sales may have declined somewhat less than the overall market, given the strength of its truck sales before the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus shut down much of the United States. Edmunds estimated that GM sold about 186,000 vehicles in the U.S. in May, down 28.5% from May of 2019 but better than the overall market's roughly 30% decline.

Now what

After a slow ramp up, GM returned its three U.S. pickup-truck factories to round-the-clock operation on Monday as it works to replenish depleted dealer inventories. GM expects to have all of its factories in North America running at full speed by the end of June. By then, auto investors will have a clearer understanding of consumer demand for new cars as the pandemic abates.