By on July 2, 2020


In what might be the most blindingly obvious statement ever to be made in this august publication, the second quarter of 2020 was an absolute disaster for vehicle sales. Under the withering gaze of a global pandemic, the nation’s car dealers were awash in red ink — and the bitter tears of various dealer principals.

Demand and supply have cratered, producing a bewildering simultaneous mix of good deals in some segments as stores try to keep the lights on while shortages of a few key models hold the pricing line on others. Pile on the vanishing rental market you have an automotive industry the likes of which few have ever seen.

Fiat Chrysler reported Q2 sales in this country of 367,086 vehicles, a 39-percent decline over the same period one year ago. Without delving into specifics, the company said fleet sales were “impacted” but retail sales have been rebounding since the month of April. One interesting stat, surely spurred by pandemic stay-at-home activity, revealed that about 20 percent of new sales leads at FCA now come from online retailing (compared with about 1 percent a year earlier).

Fun fact: Jeep recorded the sale of a single Patriot, a vehicle that ceased production four calendar years ago.

The suits at Ren Cen also attempted to put a positive spin on their Q2 deliveries of 492,489 vehicles — a 34 percent decline — but did inject a note of caution and reality. “We expect continued sales recovery,” said Elaine Buckberg, GM Chief Economist, “but recognize that the path forward may not be linear, as rising infections in many states may lead to steps backward in the reopening process.”

Perhaps shockingly, sales of full-sized pickups are up through the end of June, though whether this is a damning indictment of how tepidly the new Silverado and Sierra were received when they first went on sale is up for some considerable debate.

Elsewhere, Hyundai sold 141,722 total units in Q2, a 24-percent decline compared to one year prior. This is not a surprise given world events. What is a surprise, however, is that 48,935 out of the 50,135 vehicles reported sold in June were retail units. Hyundai says while total volume was off by 22 percent, retail sales jumped 6 percent despite the ongoing economic challenges, with fleet sales down 93 percent (making for just 2 percent of total volume).

Image: Hyundai

Also take note of Tesla, the only company on this chart whose reported deliveries YTD 2020 have outstripped last year’s numbers. This is largely thanks to robust Q1 growth this year. Q1 & Q2 2020 saw 88.4k and 90.65k deliveries respectively, while the company reported 63k and 95.2k for the same time periods this time last year.

Various talking heads are predicting the seasonally adjusted sales rate to tally somewhere in the neighborhood of 12.6 million to 13 million, down from just over 17 million last year. Those numbers assume, of course, that sales and consumer activity continue on the current upward trajectory compared to the months of April and early May. If the pandemic roars back with a vengeance in the coming months, all bets are off. For comparison, about 10 million units were sold in the bad old days of 2009 when the industry was awash with embarrassing senate hearings and bankruptcy proceedings.

You’ll notice our chart is incomplete. This is thanks to some manufacturers indicating they’ll be releasing their sales data sometime later this month. We’ll update if we feel like it when data becomes available.

[Images: Honda, Hyundai]

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15 Comments on “Seeing Red: U.S. Auto Sales, Q2 2020...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    TTAC told us that the COVID and cheap gas would kill off EV sales. Tesla’s online sales channel helped them weather the quarter, while the traditional – and dying – dealer sales model couldn’t cope.

    It’s also surprising that Mazda took less of a hit than the others.

    • 0 avatar

      It probably helped that Tesla has very large lots full of cars that people don’t want or move very slowly and they didn’t have the inventory issues. The big 3 would have sold more if the factories weren’t stupidly shut down.

      Or maybe it’s the fact that Tesla builds complete garbage that attracts people to them. Coming dead las in the JD Power IQS sure doesn’t make for good headlines.

      It’s also an estimate (and less than 180 cars, of which no profit is made is pitiful). But I wouldn’t be surprised if Muskrat pulled some unethical move with Tesla’s sales numbers to artificially boost them. The cars are literal garbage and the model Y sounds like it’s quickly becoming the biggest quality nightmare.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Those were exactly my thoughts.

    Tesla’s secret sauce is NOT ONLY that it is selling EVs, but rather the sales model that it employs.

  • avatar

    Got them where we want them. Finally. So I say we do some boycotting of our own.

    “What’s that? …gotta step up to a Laramie to get leather?”

    Or “…oops, can’t get LED headlights until I bend over and get a Lariat??”

    “How about you kiss my A$$!!”

    • 0 avatar

      That sort of arrogant nonsense is why; despite themselves, Toyota’s next Tundra will end up finally stealing meaningful sales from the incumbents.

      There’s too many OEMs vying for a piece of the pie nowadays, for “Pay $5K more for a $5 piece” to be a viable business model much longer. At least outside of the pure fashion/luxury segment.

      And even if Toyota didn’t undercut that “70s era hifi salesman” business model, Kia/Hyundai would then step in selling a fullsize which would.

      • 0 avatar

        They can learn, we just have to crack the whip. They used to force a mid trim XLT/SLT if you wanted power windows/locks and cruise on base pickups. Now those and similar are ala-carte and dealers are crazy to stock/order them without.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        If anything though, the Tundra is worse with respect to take it or leave it options packages than any of the Big-3 trucks. But I’m sure this time they will get it right. Third time is the charm I suppose. Or they could simply follow their current trend and buy bare frames and powertrains from the big 3 and slap a Toyota body on them.

      • 0 avatar
        Peter Gazis

        No Diesel, No V8, No EV tech.

        Toyota’s truck ain’t going to do $h!t.

  • avatar

    Mazda (-7%) and Lincoln (-8%) are viewing the carnage and saying ‘Hey, I feel pretty good so far.’

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t even know how to feel about it. Having 3 Mazdas on my driveway and loving them, I should be screaming in joy. But wait a minute… Today, the only Mazda I could buy, would be Miata. In the last 2 years Mazda nearly completely cut me off as potential customer..

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    My anecdotal observations during our drive from Northen VA to the NC Outter Banks was that I spotted way more cars than usual with temporary paper tags.

    I can’t say for certain all of them were new, but there were a lot of them.

  • avatar

    Nissan got clocked! They must be twitching on the canvas. Hyundai/Kia seem to have done ok relatively, as did Tesla, Mazda, and Volvo.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Nissan deserves to get clocked for their abysmal quality. Nissan’s solution is to cut costs which for Nissan is to cut their quality.

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