The climb was higher than expected. Economists had predicted a rise of 0.4 percent.
Sales adjusted for seasonal variations, but not for price changes, were 4.3 percent higher than May 2012 the bureau said.
The bureau said vehicle sales climbed 1.8 percent after a gain of 1 percent from March to April. From May 2012, automobile sales rose 8.5 percent after rising 7.7 percent on an annual basis in April.
In the other major categories, only miscellaneous store retailers experienced a month-to-month increase of more than 1 percent.
Miscellaneous retail sales rose 1.2 percent while sales of building materials and garden supplies increased 0.9 percent and sales of foods and beverages were up 0.7 percent.
Non-store sales, which include Internet commerce, rose 0.7 percent, the bureau said.