In the Great Sales Rebound, Not Every Segment Is Equal

in the great sales rebound not every segment is equal

Perhaps you read on Sunday how the week ending April 26th was the fourth consecutive week of rising U.S. sales. If you haven’t yet, please do so before we report you for venturing outdoors.

Yes, the recovery in U.S. auto sales is well underway, helped along by easing coronavirus measures and holdout states finally getting on board with online sales. Normal volume remains well down the road, however. And for some segments of the industry, pre-pandemic sales levels are even further out of reach.

Data compiled by J.D. Power for the week ending April 26th, which showed overall sales down 39 percent compared to the firm’s pre-virus forecast, tells the story. The past four weeks saw industry-wide sales volume climb out of the pit (after hitting 59 percent below forecast the week of March 29th).

Full-size pickups were always the bright spot in this health crisis, never shrinking by more than a quarter from pe-virus forecasts, but all other major segments suffered far worse. None more so than the compact car field, which saw sales bottom out at 69 percent below forecast in early April.

As we look at the latest retail figures, we can see compact cars suffering badly. With the mainstream vehicle average being 37 percent below forecast, the week ending April 26th showed compacts still down 53 percent compared to pre-pandemic projections. That’s growth of just 16 percent since hitting bottom. In comparison, compact SUVs saw their sales grow from 65 percent below forecast to just 43 percent below. A 22-percent climb from bottom.

“Small” SUVs fared even better, going from 62 percent below forecast to 32 percent below, and midsize SUVs performed almost as well, moving up from 58 percent below to 35 percent below. Pickups, it should be known, were selling just 9 percent below forecast in the past week. That same figure was true for the week ending April 5th. March 15th, too.

Premium segments haven’t bounced back as quickly as their mainstream counterparts, but growth is apparent in each of the top five categories. Overall, premium vehicle sales are down 48 percent from pre-virus forecast (compared to the mainstream field’s -37 percent figure). Compact premium car sales are a mirror image of mainstream, with sales down 54 percent from forecast (up only from 69 percent below forecast).

Elsewhere, growth is greater., with compact SUVs leading the way. That segment saw sales rise from 71 percent below forecast to 42 percent below. Small SUVs rose from -70 to -43 percent. While the climb wasn’t as steep for midsize and large premium SUVs, both categories ended the week of April 26th on the healthier side of the 50-percent marker.

The relative stagnation in pickup sales at just below pre-virus levels, coupled with a broad but varying rebound across all other segments, means the sales lead once enjoyed by the Detroit Three is nearly erased. The week ending April 26th showed the Detroit Three with a 1 percent lead over mainstream non-domestics (45 percent vs 44 percent). Premium autos sat at 11 percent of the sales mix.

Join the conversation
4 of 12 comments
  • Pwrwrench Pwrwrench on May 04, 2020

    Inside/Out, I agree and I'm a "boomer". An EV pod would be nice, however don't expect to see them functional for a few years at least.

    • See 1 previous
    • Dave M. Dave M. on May 05, 2020

      @Inside Looking Out I certainly don't mind the absent traffic jams. But I greatly enjoy the art of driving...

  • Cimarron typeR Cimarron typeR on May 05, 2020

    I'd have to believe the thrashing of sedans and compacts is more due to low gas prices and lack of new models to choose from save the Camry and Accord which are now 2 years old. Regarding work- from- home utopia, thats perfectly fine with me if you still have your job. But as an essential employee (thankfully) I'm enjoying the free flowing traffic.Now more than ever I want a manual trans car. Maybe I'll buy a compact car w/ a MT.

  • Seanx37 If it made economic sense, it would have happened decades ago. No one would insure such places. And few are going to take $60-150k electric cars off road unless they are very wealthy
  • MaintenanceCosts Seems pretty obvious that they're leaving room for a SRT with the 2.0T and the electric motor. The R/T will probably be slower than the GT given the extra weight, but without the 9-speed it will be a much nicer drive.
  • Art Vandelay Lawyers would Eff it up. That and the NIMBYS. I agree with you, but it ain't gonna happen
  • EBFlex They are getting rid of the Charger and Challenger for a modern day Neon?just end it Dodge, you had a great run
  • Garrett Frankly, I don’t understand why some of the manufacturers haven’t lobbied for more areas, or built their own. Imagine being able to access a local Jeep park, at a reasonable membership fee. Or a Land Rover one for a lot more. That’s money worth throwing down.