The outlook for the rest of 2020 is decidedly better than it was a few months ago, but it will be far from a banner year for auto sales.
A recovery began almost as abruptly as things fell apart in the spring, according to analysts who gave an economic overview of light-vehicle production and sales in a Zoom presentation Wednesday during the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars.
But it will take that recovery a long time to get back to the 17 million-plus U.S. sales levels of previous years.
IHS Markit is calling for light vehicle sales of 13.3 million this year, compared with 17.1 million last year. Mike Wall, the firm's executive director of automotive analysis, noted that the coronavirus is still "dictating the story to some extent" because the pandemic is still continuing to unfold.
In addition to its baseline forecast of 13.3 million vehicles, IHS Markit has a pessimistic outlook of 11.6 million sales for the year and an optimistic forecast of just 14.2 million.
LMC Automotive is forecasting 13.5 million light-vehicle sales this year. That's up from its April forecast of 12.9 million. LMC doesn't expect U.S. sales to hit the 17 million mark again until 2025, said Jeff Schuster, LMC Automotive's president of Americas operations and global vehicle forecasts.
Cox Automotive is calling for light-vehicle sales of 13.6 million this year.
Production forecasts also have been revised in recent months. In January, IHS Markit's forecast for North America showed a 200,000-vehicle increase in 2020 production. Its current forecast shows a reduction of about 3.7 million from last year.
"This was the year we'd make up for some of that GM strike and some additional localization," Wall said. "So obviously, suppliers and automakers alike have had to course-correct rather significantly."