To underscore the level of concern within the industry, Adam Jonas, an analyst with Morgan Stanley Research who estimated that sales could fall by a million vehicles this year, said lawmakers should consider reprising the recession-era Cash for Clunkers program as a "powerful tool" to stimulate sales.
"Given the behavioral and economic implications brought on by social distancing, we are preparing for potentially significant swings in U.S. SAAR," he said, while noting "there may be a number of other alternatives lawmakers could use to help revive critical industries such as autos if necessary."
Last week's decision to postpone the New York auto show from April to August was among the first major disruptions to the North American auto industry related to the virus. It already had forced the cancellation of this month's Geneva International Motor Show and next month's Beijing show.
John LaSorsa, who chairs the auto show committee for the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, said the group had not been told by any automakers that they wouldn't participate with reveals in the rescheduled show.
LaSorsa said organizers reached out to key partners, including automakers, before making the decision to postpone. He said he is optimistic the New York show might even pick up a few more reveals given the later calendar date.
The gathering originally was expected to include roughly 50 product introductions, including the Ford Bronco Sport and Volkswagen ID4.
"August can be just as popular as April," he said. "We may miss a few, obviously, but we could have some new additions, too."
But Ford is unlikely to wait that long to pull the wraps off the Bronco Sport or the larger Bronco SUV. The long-awaited product reveals, which were slated to happen a week apart in April, have been indefinitely postponed.
The Bronco Sport is set to go into production as early as September, so a late-August reveal might not make sense. Ford declined to offer a revised timeline of when it might show the vehicles.
"There's a fair amount of uncertainty," said Mark Truby, Ford's chief communications officer. "We're very much rallying around how to manage the situation."