June sales should outpace year-ago despite continued inventory shortages among key auto makers such as Toyota, which could trail Hyundai-Kia for the first time ever, according to a Ward’s forecast.

The forecast calls for 1.11 million light vehicle deliveries over the month’s 26 selling days, a 9% improvement in DSR compared with year-ago, which had 25 selling days.

Forecast LV sales equate to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 12.1 million units, below the current year-to-date SAAR of 12.8 million but better than May’s 8-month low of 11.8 million.

May’s dip below trend primarily was attributable to reduced inventories at Japan-based Honda and Toyota, the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that paralyzed production in their home nation.

Reduced stocks caused both auto makers to trail the industry by a wide margin.

Inventories remain an issue for Honda and Toyota, though production began returning to normal levels this month at many of their North American sites. In the near-term, output largely will be at replacement levels, leaving both auto makers with active product pipelines but severely reduced stock.

Nonetheless, a revived North American vehicle-assembly network and the promise of increased third- and fourth-quarter output should compel Honda and Toyota dealers to aggressively move their current inventories – motivation that was lacking last month when the production outlook was less clear.

Related document: Ward’s U.S. Lt. Vehicle Sales and Inventory Forecast

Ward’s is forecasting June’s industry DSR to fall 3% from prior month, a slightly better result than recent May-to-June trends when the average decline was 5%.

General Motors is expected to deliver 241,000 vehicles this month, a 19.3% increase from year-ago. Since the company’s unilateral foray into incentive spending in January, GM has alternately outperformed and lagged the market each month this year.

Ward’s is looking for GM to bounce back from a below-expectations May with a market share of 21.7%, a 5-month high.

Ford share could fall from May’s 5-year high of 17.9%, but only slightly. Ward’s is forecasting the auto maker will record 193,000 sales, good for a 10% year-over-year daily gain and a 17.4% claim on the total LV market.

With Chrysler’s projected 10.4% share, the Detroit Three auto makers are expected to account for a collective 49.5% of U.S. LV deliveries.

For the third month in a row, Korea-based Hyundai and Kia almost certainly will combine for a record joint share of LV sales. Their anticipated 43% sales hike will give the brands upwards of 11% of the market.

Toyota’s June deliveries are forecast at 124,000 units, a 7.5% drop in DSR vs. May and a 25.7% plunge from year-ago, potentially leaving the company with its first sub-10% monthly share since December 2002. This paves the way for Hyundai and Kia to outsell the giant auto maker for the first time ever.

Honda was bested by the Korean OEMs for the first time in May and will be again this month, with daily sales forecast 17.5% below year-ago, giving the auto maker an 8.2% share as it works to match its depleted inventories with prospective buyers.

While some analysts argue the U.S. market will not be able to make up post-earthquake sales losses this year, Ward’s is continuing to call for strong third- and fourth-quarter offsets – enough to lift total 2011 LV sales above 13 million units.

Ward’s June forecast brings projected LV sales for the year’s first half to 6.37 million units, a 13.8% improvement over year-ago.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com