Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday its U.S. sales fell 24 percent in May from a year ago, but sales rose 20 percent from April as the automaker continues to gain market share from its competitors now under bankruptcy protection. General Motors Corp. said Tuesday that its May U.S. vehicle sales dropped 29 percent, but showed significant improvement from their April levels.

Both fared better than Japan's Big Three. Nissan reporting a drop of 33.1 percent, while Honda's fell 39 percent. Toyota, which was the best-selling brand in the United States in 2008, saw a decline of 40.7 percent, the second month in a row that figure was below 40 percent.

Dearborn-based Ford said it sold 161,197 cars and light trucks in the U.S. last month, the highest figure since July 2008. Sales of the Ford Fusion rose 9.4 percent as the company began selling new 2010 models of the midsize sedan along with a hybrid version. Ford said it sold a record number Fusions, 19,786 in May, which was surpassed only by sales of its F-series pickup trucks.

Ford says its better cars are driving sales and its increasing market share, not GM and Chrysler's filings for bankruptcy protection. The company said it plans to increase production levels in the second quarter by 10,000 vehicles, to 445,000, in contrast to its U.S. competitors that are cutting production and idling plants this summer.

Ford also said it plans to build 460,000 vehicles in the third quarter, 42,000 more than in the third quarter of 2008.

Automakers are facing the worst U.S. sales climate in 27 years. The companies and analysts are expecting are a rebound as the consumer confidence improves, but there's concern that heavy incentives to are inflating sales.

Click here for more auto news from FOX Car Report

Ford said it decreased incentive spending in May but is launching a new program, "Drive the Ford Difference," this month, in which the company will pay three months of car payments, up to $2,100. Zero-percent financing will also be available on some vehicles.

GM sold a total of 190,881 light vehicles, the most of any automaker, but down from 268,892 in May 2008.

Light truck sales dropped 20.8 percent to 109,873 from 138,777, as demand for the HHR fell 11.3 percent to 9,671 and Tahoe sales dropped 20.4 percent to 6,306.

Car sales tumbled 37.7 percent to 81,009 from 130,115, as sales of the Cobalt dropped 52.2 percent to 12,764 and Impala sales fell 21.4 percent to 18,709. The company sold 5,463 units of its new Camaro.

The news came a day after the Detroit-based automaker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York. The company hopes to restructure and exit court oversight in 90 days.

Compared with April, GM said its May volumes rose 11 percent, or by about 19,000 vehicles and represented the company's best results to date for 2009.

For the first five months of this year, GM light vehicle sales fell 41.8 percent to 772,733. Light truck sales dropped 39.3 percent to 453,316, while car sales fell 45 percent to 319,417.

GM said it produced a total of 134,000 vehicles in May, representing a 46 percent drop from the same month last year. The company backed its second-quarter production forecast of 390,000 vehicles, which would amount to a 53 percent drop from the same period a year ago.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.