By on May 21, 2020

2018 Lexus NX front – Image: Lexus

It could be a blip, a fluke, but it could also become the norm as consumer buying habits struggle to return to something approaching normal. Via data from J.D. Power, we can see that U.S. auto sales failed to make any headway in the week ending May 17th, ending a six-week climb out the lockdown sales pit.

Finding a guilty party on which to pin the result is proving difficult.

“Leveling of sales performance was exhibited across markets,” J.D. Power noted in its weekly roundup of U.S. auto sales, adding that the cause of the leveling off in consumer activity “varied.”

A linear return to normal was probably too much to ask for.

Key markets fluctuated in comparison to pre-virus forecasts. While New York continued to claw its way back to parity (rising to 42 percent below forecast), joined by Los Angeles (rising to 20 percent below the predicted norm for the week), Dallas and Detroit fell. The result of threadbare pickup inventory? That could account for some of it, as full-size trucks fell from near-parity to 7 percent below forecast last week, but other segments flattened out, too.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro grey - Image: Toyota

Midsize pickup sales fell 7 percent below pre-virus forecasts despite sailing above the prediction the week before. Other popular segments like midsize and small SUVs made no gains for the week. Compact cars, which have thus far suffered the greatest volume loss as a result of the pandemic, improved over forecast by 1 percent. It’s still at the back of the pack among the top five automotive segments (down 43 percent compared to the projected normal).

Taking all segments into account, retail volume fell 27 percent short of pre-virus expectations last week. That’s 69,000 units lost, and a worse showing than the week before, when the industry was down 24 percent, with 55,000 units lost.

The only good news for the industry was reserved for makers of premium automobiles. Some premium segments, such as compact SUVs and compact cars, continued to rise, albeit modestly. Compact premium SUVs were down just 24 percent from pre-virus forecast — a much healthier position than the 71 percent drop seen at the height of the lockdown. Premium compact cars were down 36 percent, a slight improvement from the previous week’s 38 percent. Midsize SUVs were about flat.

All told, the continued strengthening of the premium market, when combined with a stagnant mainstream market, pushed premium market share up a point (to 13 percent).

[Image: Lexus]

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9 Comments on “Recovery Can Be a Rocky Road; Sales Stagnate in U.S....”


  • avatar

    Sure. No one knows where this is going. Even if you are employed, the stock market has taken roller coaster attributes.

    If you have no money, you aren’t buying, so there go the BHPH and credit criminals. Probably good to get into the repo business now, there will be a bump.

    If you are middle class, whatever that is, you aren’t buying unless the current ride explodes in the driveway or is crashed out-and even then, no one is going extravagant, again, whatever that is.

    If you are above that, a car is an optional expense and you probably already have three others.

    Minimal interest all around. Gardening is doing extremely well this year, though…

  • avatar

    Who cares what happened in one week. Lets talk when quarterly results are published.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    My wife and I have remained employed, working from home. Our company is a rock solid essential business and we have the money for a new vehicle, if we wanted one. However, we’ve got three reliable vehicles, all paid for, all in working order. When I went to the store at lunch today, it was the first time either of us have left our property since Sunday. I’ve only had to fill up one of the three in the last month, and my company is making noises like we’re going to be working from home long term, or perhaps a couple days in the office each week, on a rotational basis. They have been very pleased with performance in general since work from home started and it’s really changed some attitudes in leadership. At this rate of use, the vehicles we have will probably last us close to the rest of our lives.

    I’m not in the market for a vehicle right now, or the foreseeable future, no matter how good the deal is.

    • 0 avatar
      slow_poke

      +1, was looking for new car hauler to swap out the truck…. truck hasn’t left the drive in a month. old LEAF, of all things gets me around now… not going more than 30miles really ever and charge at home. no new cars o the horizon…. what we’ve got is “fine” and will be for quite a while… i’m firmly in the “wait a year and see what happens” camp. …

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    When 9/11 happened, watching it live as the second tower collapsed, I thought to myself: “Remember this date, history is being made right now, and things will be different going forward”.

    Although not as quick and dramatic as the demolition of the World Trade towers by jet liners, I also believe that with the COVID-19 pandemic history is being made right now, and that things will also be VERY different from now on.

    On a much broader scale, though.

    • 0 avatar
      gasser

      +1.
      I agree, entirely new paradigm for life. IDK exactly how, but I have been impressed by how many colleagues are working from home. Widespread, high speed internet made it possible, and Covid forced businesses to try it…..and a LOT of them liked it. We have 2 cars. I haven’t filled the tanks since the second week of MARCH! If I got a decent offer, I’d sell one of them. (But who wants “Lookie Lou” in an era of Covid?) Dry cleaners??? I don’t remember where it is. Restaurants….If they deliver and aren’t pricey (I’m still eating in my kitchen, no matter where the food comes from) I’ll call them. My job?? I work in surgery centers and do almost 100% of “elective” surgery. I guess that I am retired now.

      • 0 avatar
        SaulTigh

        I haven’t worn a button down shirt since March 20th. Bought a bunch of $5 sleeveless tshirts at Walmart and wear those with shorts and flip flops…every day. When I was at the store on Thursday, I saw several people in PJ’s shopping, middle of the day. If you’re a slouch by nature, this is your Super Bowl.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        I don’t pay my government officials to shrug their shoulders and say “well, nothing we can do…25 percent or so of you will just be unemployed now and this is the new normal.”

        If that is how you feel you have ceased to be a leader and you need to get out of the way. We don’t elect people to say “Woe is me” and move us backwards.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Stagnating pay, employment risks, stock market instability, average new car stickering for $37,577 (KBB)… take your pick.

    Just spent $700 on a repair for my 13 year old car. That’s a car payment for a good used car for perhaps 40 days at best. Leasing my wife’s car for $600/month after tax.

    Seems to me the new car market is going to tank bigly for the next year.

    Anyone try to buy a bicycle recently? I have. All entry level and mid level mountain bikes are sold out in North America from the biggest bike mfg. I’m in So Cal and the weather is nice, but want to talk about a trend…. there’s one for you.

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