By on May 8, 2020

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

If full-size pickups were a human infected with coronavirus, friends and family would characterize it as a “fighter” in media interviews. It’s tough, they’d say ⁠— it’ll get through this alright.

And so it did, shaking off the pandemic-borne sales slump afflicting the U.S. auto industry and returning to almost normal, pre-virus levels last week. Compared to other segments, the pickup’s illness was a far milder case. Which isn’t to say other segments aren’t recovering. They are, just not as quickly as those much-loved trucks. And you have to wonder if certain segments will ever be the same again.

In the week ending May 3rd, the top five automotive segments were down 29 percent from pre-virus forecast, according to sales data amassed by J.D. Power ⁠— a 9-percent improvement from the week before and a figure far removed from the depths of late March and early April. Of the five, just one can claim normalcy: large pickups, which saw retail sales fall just 1 percent below pre-virus forecast.

The allure isn’t entirely organic.

In the week ending May 3rd, “Truck incentive spending as a percent of MSRP surpassed SUV relative spending for the first time since February 2017 and surpassed car relative spending for the first time since 2013,” J.D. Power noted.

Small and midsize SUVs rose to 25 and 26 percent below forecast, with compact SUVs at 38 percent below; significant gains for all, with compacts rising 10 percent in a week. Alas, the same cannot be said for the fifth most popular segment, compact cars, with ended the week down 48 percent.

The recovery curve of compact cars is not nearly as steep as that of its peers (sadly, as we all know, the segment had a pre-existing condition).

Image: Hyundai

As states either spring or tip-toe back to something approaching normal (Dallas has almost completely returned to pre-virus sales levels, with hard-hit Detroit and New York nearing halfway there), automakers and dealerships must contend with what’s already been lost ⁠— that being sales and revenue. Retail sales in April were down 42 percent. Between March 2nd and May 3rd, the industry shed 1,588,577 new and used retail sales, representing a loss of $2.6 billion in dealer profit, J.D. Power estimates.

Sales of premium vehicles accelerated last week, but their volume remains depressed compared to their mainstream counterparts. The most successful of the premium segments, small SUV, was down 35 percent compared to pre-virus forecast — up significantly from the 70-percent drop seen in the week ending March 29th. Other premium SUV segments aren’t far behind. Compact premium cars saw the least recovery over that time period, moving from negative 69 percent to negative 51 percent (vs pre-virus forecast).

As expected, recovery in non-pickup  and premium volume meant that the Detroit Three no longer hold the largest share of the retail mix. Ford, Fiat Chrysler, and General Motors’ share of the retail mix fell to 43 percent last week, with mainstream, non-Detroit vehicles rising to 45 percent. That ends Motown’s five-week run at the top of the charts.

So, who’s out there buying these days? Compared to the younger crowd, buyers over the age of 55 continue to be absent in greater numbers ⁠— bad news for dealers and OEMs, as they tend to have the most spending power and are the most reliable customers. The over-55 crowd vamoosed during the Great Lockdown and, while last week saw sales attributed to this cohort climb significantly, they’re still down 37 percent compared to pre-virus forecast.

That’s 45,000 missing units caused by missing Boomers.

While oldsters remain reasonably missing in action, sales to the 35-and-under crowd are down by only a quarter ⁠— a phenomenon J.D. Power attributes to the greater draw of zero-percent financing and long loan terms, which attract the attention of Millennials far more than well-pensioned retirees whose homes are paid off.

[Images: © 2019 Matthew Guy/TTAC, Hyundai]

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44 Comments on “Sales Recovery Continues Apace; Big Pickups Fully Shake Off the Disease...”


  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    “Drat…Foiled Again!”

    – The vocal commenters on this site that proclaim trucks are dead and people will be flocking back to midsized sedans and wagons or subcompacts every time anything happens

    • 0 avatar

      During lockdown people experienced clean environment and after restarting of economy people will not put up with gas powered vehicles anymore and will flock, not back but forward, to EVs. We are on the verge if major revolution in automotive history – accelerated switch from ICE vehicles to EV caused by COVID-19.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Well that line of thinking explains all of those truck sales for sure.

        • 0 avatar

          As soon as electric trucks will be available things will rapidly change towards ETs.

        • 0 avatar
          ect

          I don’t drive a truck, and sold the last truck I owned in 1995.

          But I don’t recall reading “vocal commenters” on this site proclaiming that “trucks are dead and people will be flocking back to midsized sedans and wagons or subcompacts”, as much as I might personally prefer it to happen.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            A very vocal one proclaimed that vehicles like the versa would be the big winners as that is all people would have money for.

            The fact is this is playing out like most sane people expected. People that can afford a truck were never going to be the first to be impacted, if they are impacted at all. It was the waiters stretching the Ramen budget for that new Sentra or Versa to drive something new that were in for it.

            Sure, things could get worse for sure still, but it isn’t like companies having robust midsized offerings are any or immune to that situation. People won’t buy anything at that point.

            There is nothing unexpected here.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Truth. Lots of room. Lots of engine power. Totally configurable. Totally versatile. Mid-size, full size. Urban, suburban, rural. Work and play. Affordable base to luxury bling. Cheap gas.

      Pickups rule.

      • 0 avatar
        CobraJet

        Totally agree. I am fortunate enough to have a 4 door sedan, a van and a crew cab pickup. If I found it necessary to downsize the fleet to only one vehicle I would have to keep the crew cab pickup. It can meet all of my needs.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        I would take a truck over a CUV any day of the week. But to me the ideal garage would have a sedan and minivan with a weekend warrior in the other garage.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I would suspect that the typical person buying a 40-60k (or more) pickup is in a position where COVID-19 isn’t going to adversely affect their income. On the flip side, I’ve seen some incredible deals. My local Ford dealer was offering 12-18k off of left over 2019’s. Now I’m seeing smaller discounts in the way of cash on the hood but dealers are now advertising 6 months deferred payments and/or 72 month zero interest loans. You also have to consider the price of fuel. I’m driving around more because it is so cheep.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “I would suspect that the typical person buying a 40-60k (or more) pickup is in a position where COVID-19 isn’t going to adversely affect their income.”

      Maybe, but I really think the white-collar layoffs are on the way this fall and winter. Hopefully these buyers aren’t counting chickens before they are hatched.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @ajla – agreed.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        “Maybe, but I really think the white-collar layoffs are on the way this fall and winter.”

        On what would you base this. I don’t think it is all over, but I don’t magically see the sort of people that have kept working through this from home or otherwise and the sort that buy these vehicles all of the sudden loosing their jobs either.

        I know there is this fantasy on this site that pickup owners all live in double wides and get 15 year mortgages on their trucks but this really isn’t so. I read somewhere the best selling vehicle among those making over 250k a year was the F-150. I mean my 15 XLT is paid for and has been for some time.

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          The company I work for has basically said they are planning for a worst case of 90% reduction in sales for Q2, ramping back up to full production by Q4. They claim to be able to survive this scenario without layoffs. If reality becomes worse than the planned worst case, I could see other measures being taken. Maybe it’s only pay cuts, maybe it’s more.

          If we are in that position, I imagine many other manufacturing companies are as well. It’s not out of the question at all that white collar jobs will be lost over this if another wave occurs late in the year.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “the white-collar layoffs”
          “that pickup owners all live in double wides and get 15 year mortgages on their trucks”

          I wouldn’t have commented “white collar layoffs” if I thought the majority of truck buyers belonged on Jerry Springer.

          As far as the “why?”. Pretty much what Jack4x wrote. In my day job, the numbers over March and April were low enough that year-end layoffs will be extremely likely if there isn’t a big resurgence in the fall. A 2nd wave lockdown during the holidays would be apocalyptic .

          Maybe someone has a million+ in the bank and isn’t worried about it and maybe some industries are looking rosier than the ones I deal with, but I personally would put off buying any new vehicles unless you can secure it all with excess fun money.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          ” I read somewhere the best selling vehicle among those making over 250k a year was the F-150.”

          My favorite factoid is that more millionaires drive F-150s then any other vehicle

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          White-collar layoffs and pay cuts are already here. Count yourself lucky if you don’t know anyone impacted yet.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      “I would suspect that the typical person buying a 40-60k (or more) pickup is in a position where COVID-19 isn’t going to adversely affect their income.”

      I think your suspicion is correct. If you are in a position to buy an expensive pickup truck and pay for the gas, you’re probably in the type of occupation that’s not going to be as affected by this.

      It’s people who are on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder who are most adversely impacted, and you would normally find those individuals in a Nissan or Mitsubishi showroom looking at the cheapest possible transportation.

      I doubt the upper class is gonna rush to join them. The only time I recall Americans engaging in any sort of shared automotive downgrading was during the late 1970s/early 1980s when everybody got all freaked out about oil shortages and inflation and rich and poor and young and old and fat and skinny bought Accords, Tercels, diesel Rabbits, and even Chevettes. I don’t see that happening again though. It’s a very different world now.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Many of the core pickup-buying demographic are being told every time they turn on the TV that COVID-19 is a hoax and that if they change their habits for it at all they are cucks. So they’re not changing their habits. We’ll see how that works out for them.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Stereotype much? You must be a lot of fun at a bar.

      For those who are in the market for a truck, this is an awesome time to buy. Dont forget fleet sales, contractors, etc, that are always refreshing their inventory now have an extra incentive to do so.

      Im in the market for a truck, but inventory has become challenging and trade in values are for naught nowadays. And I do wear a mask in public and sanitize regularly.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Many of the core pickup-buying demographic are being told every time they turn on the TV that COVID-19 is a hoax and that if they change their habits for it at all they are cucks. So they’re not changing their habits. We’ll see how that works out for them.

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      Who on TV is telling anyone that the virus is a hoax? What channel do the “core pickup-buying demographic” watch that is telling them this? They telling them it’s a hoax AND they are cucks? Show me a link where this has been said.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      The vast majority of pickups are sold to buyers in medium to large cities and have an average income of over 80,000 dollars per year. That certainly doesn’t sound like a buyer that fits your little fantasy stereotype.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and virtually everyone who has ever appeared on OANN. Find your own links; when I googled it I got pages and pages.

  • avatar
    Zipster

    That’s exactly what the psychopath’s disciples on fox news were saying until well into the crisis and the people that watch and live by this propaganda are the same people who believe that owning a truck confers immunity to virus.’

  • avatar
    Zipster

    Art? Are you still with us?

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Oh yeah, just waiting for you to back up your claim that anyone out there thinks pickup trucks bring immunity. Not sure what bleach has to do with that. I’m sure I have drank some…if you have spent a day in the Army and consumed water from a water buffalo in the field, you have too…like drinking from a pool.

      But no, I don’t make a habit of it nowadays lol.

      So who is your truck dude? Or were you just on here spouting your normal BS and stirring up crap like always. You don’t have to answer, we already know.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    There are some that think that if you have a large 4×4 crew cab pickup that you can drive over the virus and if it is still alive then you can shoot it with your AK-47. But then there are others that drink more bourbon to kill any virus they might be exposed to.

  • avatar
    Zipster

    Anybody know anything about ‘consuming water from a water buffalo in the field’?

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      It would be an Army thing. Big tank they put water in. Not something you’d experience on the safe confines of your mom’s basement.

      So…how bout that one name of someone claiming trucks (or guns) confer immunity?

      Keep deflecting that you have nothing to back up your ridiculous stereotype.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I do know you are a piece of s#!+ Troll. Sorry I engaged you and enabled you to clutter this up with your nonsense. It’s a mistake I won’t make again. Another good site ruined by the a$$#@ts. Not worth the time.

  • avatar
    randyinrocklin

    Hey Zipster, zip it up, you’re making a fool of yourself.

    • 0 avatar
      Zipster

      If you want to see observe a fool, read your great guide’s tweets and watch his news conferences.

      • 0 avatar
        SharkDiver

        Is this seriously the most maturity you can muster?

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        Can somebody ban this Zipster guy? Seriously. This is a site about cars and trucks, not about partisan politics, and he doesn’t offer anything substantial on automotive topics. But he does shoot off his mouth to anyone in range about his political beliefs from his mothers basement.

        These comment sections arent meant to discuss politics, nor should they foster a divide amongst enthusiasts.

  • avatar
    punkybrewstershubby aka Troy D.

    All I know is that ICE pickups are here to stay until an electric can be fueled from empty in 10 minutes or less and go 400 miles on a highway tank.

  • avatar
    Lockdown

    Of course, truck sales are going to be up. All those SBA loan winners need to move their cash. Heck the Lakers purchased 6 new trucks to more their SBA loan cash which was another way the Laker supported other small business like them. ;). Lots of other multinational companies realized the bad optics of having brinks trucks drop off their taxpayer donations. Their consultants assured them having the money delivered in the everyday joes pickup truck is a great marketing opportunity. :)

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