Analysts are now starting to worry more about supply than demand, now that U.S. assembly plants have been down for several weeks. That's particularly true for pickups, which have suffered the least, said Tyson Jominy, vice president of automotive consulting at J.D. Power.
"The story changes so rapidly as to what we're watching," Jominy said. "And now we're watching inventory."
Pickup sales were only off by about 10 percent in April.
"Supply of pickup trucks in general is the one thing we're watching very closely because that's the metric right now that could really knock the sales out of this recovery," he said.
Parker said the key to outperforming the market was to move aggressively with incentives while keeping vehicles flowing from Korea. Dealers moved quickly to online sales, he said, limiting the drop in retail deliveries last month to 28 percent.
Bob Carter, head of sales for Toyota Motor North America, said the automaker found positives amid the sea of red numbers and predicted things could return to near normal as early as August.
"The last 10 days of April compared to the last 10 days of March, we were up 20 percent," Carter told Automotive News. "I'm 100 percent convinced that we're beyond the bottom. My expectation is that April was the low point. May will be better than April. June will be better than May. On a national basis, we'll come into a 90-day recovery period, and my prediction is that by August, things should be pretty good."
Carter said inventories were down year over year, though still fine, and he said there could be shortages of some vehicles in the months ahead. At Hyundai, Parker said he didn't see supply problems for any model, including the hot-selling Palisade crossover.
Carter said the sales departments of roughly one-third of the 1,482 Toyota and Lexus dealers in the U.S. were closed in April because of the pandemic, though almost all continued selling cars online with home delivery. He said the "vast majority" of the automaker's 84,694 sales in April were online. "That's going to be our new normal now."