DETROIT, June 3 (Reuters) - Chrysler Group on Tuesday reported a higher-than-expected 17 percent gain in U.S. new-car sales on strong demand for its Jeep sport utility vehicles in May, when results for the entire auto sector are expected to heat up with the weather.
The U.S. auto industry is forecast to show a third straight month of strong sales after cold and snowy weather held down results in January and February. Economists polled by Reuters expected May industry sales to rise about 7 percent, with an annual sales rate of 16.1 million vehicles.
Chrysler expects the industry's annual sales rate in May to finish at 16.9 million vehicles, including medium and heavy trucks, which account for about 300,000 vehicles each year.
Monthly auto sales are seen as an early snapshot of consumer demand for big-ticket items. U.S. new-car sales in April rose 8 percent, and the annual selling rate finished at 16.04 million vehicles.
U.S. sales for Chrysler, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles , finished at 194,421 vehicles in May, above the consensus of nine analysts polled by Reuters.
Sales at its Jeep SUV line jumped 58 percent to 70,203 vehicles in May from a year earlier, while Ram pickup truck sales increased 17 percent to 37,131 vehicles. Dodge brand sales were up 3 percent. (Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)