Car sales plunged across the board during June, capping off the auto industry’s worst quarter in decades as the economic shutdown brought on by the pandemic battered sales of new vehicles in the U.S.
General Motors said its sales dropped 34% in the second quarter while Fiat Chrysler reported a 39% drop for the quarter ending June 30 and Nissan reported a 49% decline for the quarter. Toyota Motor North America said its sales dropped 26% during the month of June.
GM also said while the industry experienced significant declines due to the outbreak of COVID-19, full-size pickup truck sales performed exceptionally well, and overall sales showed signs of recovery, especially deliveries to retail customers. GM’s retail sales were off by about 24% in the quarter, roughly in line with the rest of the industry.
(Hundreds of thousands of dealership jobs likely to be cut, otherwise impacted, after pandemic.)
“Our resilient sales reflect an improving demand curve, and the strong efforts of GM and our retailers in unprecedented times,” said Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president, Sales Operations.
“GM entered the quarter with very lean inventories and our dealers did a great job meeting customer demand, especially for pickups. Now, we are refilling the pipeline by quickly and safely returning production to pre-pandemic levels. Having an appropriate mix of the right vehicles combined with the benefits of enhanced shopping technologies such as Shop. Click. Drive., positions us for success in the second half of 2020.”
FCA reported a 39% decline compared with the same period a year earlier — as the economic havoc caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in April was partially offset by the stronger than expected retail sales rebound in May and June.
Fleet sales were impacted during the quarter as customers initially delayed or reduced their orders, in addition deliveries have been focused on the dealer channel since production resumed, FCA said.
“This quarter demonstrated the resilience of the U.S. consumer,” said Head of U.S. Sales Jeff Kommor. “Retail sales have been rebounding since April as the reopening of the economy, steady gas prices and access to low interest loans spur people to buy. Our fleet volume remained low during the quarter as we prioritized vehicle deliveries to retail customers. As a result, we have built a strong fleet order book, which we will fulfill over the coming months.”
Toyota said six models posted year-over-year sales increases in June, including Camry hybrid, Avalon hybrid, C-HR, RAV4 hybrid, 4Runner, Highlander hybrid and Land Cruiser.
(Toyota sees retail market bouncing back fast, but warns there could be “lumps” ahead.)
Sales of the RAV4 hybrid increased by 89% and accounted for slightly more than half of RAV4’s total June tallies, marking the first time ever a hybrid has outsold its gas counterpart. Overall, Toyota said the June hybrid mix represented approximately 23% of total sales compared with 12% in June 2019.
Nissan Group announced total U.S. second-quarter sales for 2020 of 177,328 units, a decrease of 49.5% versus the prior year as fleet deliveries dropped sharply.
“Retail sales have exceeded our expectations in the second quarter as we continue to decrease rental fleet volume and focus on steadily building a quality, sustainable business for our employees, dealers and for our customers,” said David Kershaw, division vice president, Nissan Sales & Regional Operations, Nissan North America.
Analysts generally said sales are about where they expected, although analysts from Cox Automotive said during a conference call last week that there were some signs the market for new vehicles was “losing momentum” during the in the later part of June as COVID-19 cases increased across the southern United States.
Eric Lyman, an analyst with True Car, said incentives have given the industry a jump start.
“While incentives are still up year-over-year, the aggressive incentives that came out fast and furiously in April and May to help alleviate sales pains are beginning to soften due to low inventory and assembly plants that are still not back to full production,” added Lyman.
(June sales expected to be down, but improvement over May.)
“Retail sales over the Fourth of July holiday weekend will be the next big test of industry’s strength and resiliency and will be a litmus test for automakers in deciding to further pull back on incentives.”