By on April 2, 2020

Surprising exactly no one, sales numbers for the automotive industry in this country are grim. With stay-at-home edicts being encouraged in most states and various social distancing measures in place to help temper the spread of COVID-19, it’s understandable that a limited numbers of customers are darkening the doors of the few showrooms that remain open.

The first two months of this year were reasonably robust, so the negative numbers can almost entirely be chalked up to March’s challenging conditions (to put it mildly). As a programming note, the brands of Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz won’t we releasing their numbers until later in the month. This explains the holes in our chart.

It’s worth noting at this time that several manufacturers have jumped on board the pandemic response efforts and pivoted their production facilities to make medical equipment. This is no small feat. Others have donated equipment to healthcare providers. For these actions, we applaud them all.

As the situation remains quite fluid, some dealers remain open while others have shuttered their doors for now.

“Many have taken extraordinary steps, ranging from enhanced sanitizing protocols for their showrooms to the offer of home delivery and other concierge services to keep consumers safe,” said U.S. Head of Sales Jeff Kommor. “I applaud all of them for their efforts.”

General Motors noted that it has enabled OnStar Crisis Assist services for all connected vehicle owners, as well as complimentary in-vehicle data for all Wi-Fi-equipped vehicles.

In terms of raw numbers — well, there you have it. The picture is bleak and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. As an example, Fiat Chrysler’s Q1 U.S. sales were 446,768 vehicles compared with 498,425 for the same period a year earlier. Retail sales were 306,898 vehicles for the quarter, meaning fleet accounted for 31 percent of total sales. You can draw your own conclusions there.

Ram pickups were actually up 7 percent in Q1, indicating they must have been on a tear for the first two months of this year. One thing that sticks out like a sore thumb at FCA is that brand’s namesake. Fiat itself, as an entire brand, sold less as a whole than any other individual vehicle in the company save for the rare-as-hen’s teeth Alfa 4C.

By the way, many automakers have followed Ford’s lead and switched to a quarterly reporting system. This clarifies why our chart only shows year-to-date numbers and no month-over-month results. Still, there are a few that do choose to shine a light on their monthly efforts.

Hyundai, for example, was down in March by 49 percent compared to the same time frame one year ago. Given world events, this is not unexpected. However, thanks to their reporting transparency, we can see that they grew 11 percent in January and February combined. Year-to-date, taking March into account, they’re down 11 percent overall. Interestingly, and despite the American public’s appetite for crossovers, the Elantra remains its best-selling model. Note, however, that it has a YTD lead of about 2,000 units over the Tucson compared to an 8,000-unit advantage this time last year.

Talking heads are saying industry sales as a whole rose 4 percent in the first two months of this year. Since then, especially in major cities where stay-at-home orders have been issued, new-vehicle sales typically dropped 80 percent within a few days, according to the boffins at J.D. Power and Associates. At this rate, the industry will be fortunate to crack 11 million units for the entirety of 2020. For comparison, the market bottomed out at something near 10 mil during the dark days of 2009.

We can only guess what April will bring. Stay safe, everyone.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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28 Comments on “COVID-19 Fallout: U.S. Auto Sales Crater in Q1...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Most amazing to me is that every month, 200 people buy a McLaren.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    Don’t need or want a truck, but that RAM 2500 in the pic above is a great looking vehicle! That color of blue is great.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Q2 should be worse, with everyone confined to their homes. This message brought to you by Captain Obvious.

  • avatar
    JMII

    So how long before Fiat closes up shop? At this rate they will be gone by years end.

  • avatar
    cardave5150

    Cadillac, even with new much-needed crossover models recently hitting dealer lots, is down 15%, while Lincoln is up 2%. They could be equal in sales by the end of the year.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Not impossible, but I’d say a lot of this is due to the introduction of the Corsair and Aviator. They were probably selling like hotcakes before the s**t hit the fan.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      Cardave
      30,325 Cadillacs > 25,561 Lincolns

      Cadillac CT4’s just started arriving in late March with the CT4-V, CT5-V, new Escalade & Lyriq still on the way

      Lincoln will be killing the MKZ this year & Continental next year.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Subaru was finally stopped!

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Is that to be considered a good thing, Slavuta? If so, why?

      • 0 avatar
        Guy A

        Because they have an inane marketing slogan – love has nothing to do with Subaru.
        They have been fortunate in being ahead of the curve of CUVs (Forester and Outback), largely because their cars (Impreza and Legacy) sucked sales wise.

        • 0 avatar
          bullnuke

          Guy A: So, this really has nothing to do with Subaru vehicles per se, just opinions about a marketing slogan? The fact that their CUV’s (which, arguably also include the Crosstek and the Ascent) sell better than their cars (sedans) may also be applied to pretty much any manufacturer during the first quarter of 2020. One could also point out a comparison with the much ballyhooed Mazda’s cars (MX-5, Mazda3, Mazda6) that suck sales wise as well as a the majority of their CUV’s (CX-3, CX-9 or 2 out of 3) which also suck sales wise with only the CX-5 selling enough to barely keep them in the USDM. Is this also “inane marketing”?

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Their March was seem to be unstoppable. But they were stopped at last. Now, for me, I wonder why people buy them? AWD? But their best AWD times are in the passed. Most of their new AWD are FWD with little help from the back, like most of all other cars. They are not fast, in fact slow. They have horrible seating surfaces. They rust, leak. But I will give this – they did improve interiors a lot with the last 2 releases.
        As someone who usually buying lower trims, they still fall into same bucket with Hyundai. Lower trims have pretty bad materials in the interiors. This is where Mazda shines. Mazda lower trims are nice actually.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I was considering a F350 long box as a camper/retirement rig. My local dealership had a 10k discount on a remaining 2019. It is now down another 10k. I don’t recall 20k off a truck before. 8 ft box crew-cabs aren’t all that popular.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Before Michigan was shut down, my wife was dealing with a Buick dealership trying to buy a low mileage 2018 Regal TourX with 13k miles on the clock. They would hardly budge on the price; only offering $500 off the advertised price.

    After I got furloughed – and with everything closed – I’m glad the we didn’t move on the car. But yeah, if you’re desperate to move some metal, DROP THE PRICE.

    The TourX, as far as I can tell, is lot poison. Only a few people want a Buick wagon. I happen to like them but not _that_ much.

    • 0 avatar

      What makes you think that dealer was desperate on selling Regal especially if they did not budge on the price? It does not look like they were desperate to me. Or you think they don’t know how to sell cars, professionals who do that every single day year after year?

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Car dealers are probably holding out waiting for folks to get that stimulus too. They have no reason to start selling cars at a loss, especially used cars which they likely have less flexibility with given incentives on new ones.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    So I just saw a report that Silverado outsold Ram in Q1, and Silverado and Sierra combined outsold F Series. If true, it has to be incentives unless I am missing something.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    A friend of mine has never had a real job, as his mother-in-law owns an Acura dealership and pays for everything – and I mean EVERYTHING. Looks like that may have suddenly changed. I can’t wait to see a 45 year-old man entering the work force at the bottom rung, after 20 years of Hawaiian vacations away from nothing.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    20k off of an F350 that is an unbelievable deal. If you are still working that might be a buy for you if you are planning on getting one in the next few years. I saw a new 2020 Colorado WT for less than 17k which is just above the base model.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    • Kia – “More Powerful Than COVID-19″© (sales *up* 1%)

    • Anything perceived as a potential Zombie Apocalypse Response Vehicle (ZARC™) is doing relatively better (see Ram et al.).
    https://www.cdc.gov/cpr/zombie/index.htm

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