U.S. Auto Sales (Predictably) Tank in April As Recovery Ramps Up

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
u s auto sales predictably tank in april as recovery ramps up

Barring some health miracle and a financial windfall distributed evenly across the country’s populace, U.S. auto sales are in for a grim 2020. IHS Markit predicts a 26.7-percent slump for the year. April, which bore the full brunt of state-level lockdown measures, saw numerous automakers, perhaps all, return their worst monthly showing in years — or decades.

Amid all this dismal sales news and OEM financial bloodletting is a ray of hope for automakers and dealerships alike. States are opening up, and with declining COVID-19 cases in several major markets — and the approval of online sales in others — volume is on the upswing.

April was always expected to be a brutal month, with Edmunds and Cox Automotive (per CNBC) both forecasting a 53-percent sales drop for a month just ended. Data from automakers that still report on a monthly basis bear this out. Hyundai saw its April volume fall 39 percent, year over year, with Kia Motors on the hook for a 38.3-percent drop.

April was a month where the number of selling days and timing of holidays had little, if any, bearing on the final tally.

Subaru of America chalked up 46.6-percent fewer sales this April than last. At Mazda, the damage amounted to a 44-percent drop. With great understatement, Honda spoke of “difficult market conditions” as it announced a 54.1-percent drop. Toyota recorded a 53.9-percent sales slump, which was actually a higher tally than predicted.

Indeed, the cratering of the U.S. new vehicle market never achieved the depths predicted upon the pandemic’s arrival. The slow return of the New York City and Detroit-area markets, coupled with the approval of online sales in Michigan and Pennsylvania moved the needle in the week upward ending April 26th, J.D. Power data shows.

After dropping 74 percent below the firm’s pre-virus forecast at the end of March, sales in San Francisco were off by only 55 percent last week. Detroit has improved from essentially zero sales in early April (down 99 percent from pre-virus forecast) to 75 percent below last week. NYC’s percentage-below figure rose from 96 percent in the week ending March 29th to 71 percent in the week ending April 26th.

Country-wide, new vehicle sales were off pre-virus forecast by 39 percent — compared to the 59-percent-below figure seen at the end of March. That’s four weeks of sales growth. Some markets, like Dallas, have almost returned to normal. J.D. Power claims that all but one of the nation’s top 25 markets (Raleigh, NC) shows sales growth last week.

Still, buyers now emerging from their meticulously clean, bread-infused homes can’t do anything about volume already lost. From March 2nd to April 26th, the U.S. new vehicle market shed 782,000 units.

[Image: Hyundai, Chris Tonn/TTAC]

Join the conversation
  • CKNSLS Sierra SLT CKNSLS Sierra SLT on May 03, 2020

    Maybe a positive thing to come out of this-is just maybe you can buy a new car online- (in all parts of the country) with less effort than it currently takes before this COVID thing. Giving a price online (with ALL FEES INCLUDED) is the last many dealers want to do. OR-maye dealers will go back to their "old ways"......

    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on May 03, 2020

      You can get a price online now, but probably only with basic discounts included. Other discounts to dealers that can be passed on to buyers as part of a package are still separate, and you still have to bargain with the dealer for trade-in, car loan rollover, and new financing. Dealers won't be out of business by a long shot. They're still the guys with the cars, and still deal with licensing and registration so the buyer doesn't have to - and the states like it that way. I wouldn't rule out dealers finding other ways to pack on fees and other charges, while giving you a "break" on your trade-in or financing.

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on May 03, 2020

    I remember when you everyone here were laughing at AOC's "Green New Deal". DO you still think it is a fantasy? Congratulations comrades,it just happened: oil companies go bankrupt, car manufacturers too (they do not know yet) except of Tesla of course which stock is at record high. Airplanes are indefinitely grounded. Nobody drives, nobody flies. Putin is hiding in Kremlin. We all are on the government dole now. New deal, new normal. People are paid to sit at home and watch TV, while TV is watching you. He is there watching you. Someone is waiting just outside the door, to take you away.

    • See 4 previous
    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on May 04, 2020

      @ect Remember: they are watching you. You think you are smart? Your TV is smarter than you. Behave, because someone will be waiting just outside the door, to take you away. Putin is hiding for the reason.

  • Styles I had a PHEV, and used to charge at home on a standard 3-pin plug (240v is standard here in NZ). As my vehicle is a company car I could claim the expense. Now we are between houses and living at the in-laws, and I'm driving a BEV, I'm charging either at work (we have a wall-box, and I'm the only one with an EV), or occasionally at Chargenet stations, again, paid by my employer.
  • Dwford 100% charge at home.
  • El scotto Another year the Nissan Rogue is safe.
  • John R 4,140 lbs...oof. A quick google of two cars I'm familiar with:2017 Ford Fusion Sport - AWD, twin-turbo 2.7 V6 (325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque)3,681 lbs2006 Dodge Charger RT - RWD, naturally aspirated 5.7 V8 (340 horsepower and 390 lb. -ft. of torque)4,031 lbs
  • FreedMike Ford "Powershudder" DCT? Hard pass...with extreme prejudice. The only people who liked these were the class-action lawyers. With a manual, it'd be a different story.