U.S. light-vehicle sales fell 17 percent to about 1.26 million in April from a year earlier, when industry volume soared briefly, as key parts shortages and jammed supply lines continue to undermine light-vehicle output and shipments.
But in a sign of incremental progress, LMC Automotive on Wednesday reported industry sales rose by 5,000 units in April over March, traditionally a stronger month.
The seasonally adjusted annualized rate of sales came in at 14.7 million, near the high end of the range of forecasts, 14.3 million to 14.8 million, from LMC, J.D. Power, Cox Automotive and TrueCar. April's sales pace was well below the torrid 18.5 million pace set in April 2021, but higher than March's 13.4 million rate. Except for January, the SAAR has been stuck below 15 million since July.
LMC said General Motors, which does not release monthly sales figures, was the market leader in April, outselling Toyota Motor Corp. by 16,000 units. GM was also the only automaker to top sales of 200,000 units last month, LMC said. The Chevrolet Silverado was the top-selling light vehicle, followed by the Toyota RAV4 and Ford F-series.
“While most measurements would indicate a positive April, the industry is still being impacted by the parts shortage that has plagued sales for almost a year now," said Augusto Amorim, senior manager for sales forecasting in the Americas for LMC Automotive. "General Motors, Toyota and Stellantis sold fewer vehicles in April than in March, and Honda sales fell more than those of any other automaker. Yet, for GM, the worst seems to be behind them."
U.S. new-vehicle sales were expected to fall around 20 percent in April, analysts predicted, as automakers struggle to rebuild depleted dealer inventories amid the chronic microchip shortage and other supply chain hurdles.
The period of March, April and May 2021 was among the hottest three-month sales stretches ever, reflecting a sharp rebound from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and a time before the chip shortage began throttling global production.
Toyota Motor, saddled by some of the industry's lowest inventory levels, said April volume skidded 23 percent, with deliveries down 23 percent at the Toyota division and 18 percent at Lexus. Sales at Toyota Motor, the top-selling automaker in the U.S. last year and in the first quarter, have now dropped nine consecutive months.
The Toyota brand's top sellers all racked up double-digit declines: Camry, off 12 percent; RAV4, down 18 percent; Highlander, off 29 percent; Corolla, down 21 percent; and Tacoma, off 27 percent.
Toyota Motor closed April with a 20-day supply of vehicles; 137,067 cars and lights trucks, or just 13,831 in dealer stock and 123,236 at ports or in transit, a spokesman said.
Ford Motor Co.'s deliveries fell 11 percent, with volume decreasing 11 percent at the Ford division and 12 percent at Lincoln. Three of the Ford brand's most popular light trucks racked up double-digit declines: F-Series, down 22 percent; Explorer, off 23 percent, and Ranger, down 60 percent.
Ford, which has pushed back allocations and advised dealers that wholesale deliveries will be lighter until late May, said April sales of key models improved over March. It ended April with gross stocks of 238,000 vehicles, down from 268,000 at the close of March and 265,000 at the end of April 2021.
“While industry semiconductor chip shortages persist, improved inventory flow in April delivered a significant share gain of 1 percentage point over a year ago with Ford outperforming the industry," said Andrew Frick, vice president of sales, distribution and trucks at Ford. "Inventory flow bolstered stronger F-Series, Mustang Mach-E, E-Transit and record April Ford brand SUV sales."
Honda Motor Co., citing "difficult supply constraints," said sales fell 40 percent in April, the company's ninth-straight monthly decline, with deliveries down 41 percent at the Honda division and 33 percent at Acura.
Four of the Honda brand's five biggest sellers dropped by 20 percent or more: Accord, down 20 percent; Civic, off 51 percent; CR-V, down 56 percent; and Pilot, down 43 percent. HR-V deliveries rose 6 percent.
A Honda spokesman said Tuesday the company started 2022 with U.S. dealer stocks under 20,000 cars and light trucks and began April slightly below that level. For comparison, the automaker had 300,000 vehicles in dealer inventory at the start of 2021.
Deliveries fell 20 percent at Hyundai and 16 percent at Kia last month, mostly on weaker car sales. It was the second-straight month of double-digit declines at the two Korean brands.
“We continue to have challenges with production and distribution of our vehicles,” said Eric Watson, head of U.S. sales for Kia. “Our dealer inventories continue to be at historic lows, somewhere between seven and nine days' supply of vehicles on the ground.”
With an expanded crossover lineup, its first pickup and the new Ioniq 5 electric vehicle, Hyundai has focused on retail sales, which tallied 61,668 last month. The company reported zero fleet deliveries in April for the fourth month.
Hyundai closed April with 15,809 vehicles in inventory, down from 17,271 at the start of the month and 123,046 a year ago.
Randy Parker, senior vice president of national sales for Hyundai Motor America, said the company continues to sell at a very high and efficient rate because consumer demand remains "extremely" high.
“We do see light at the end of the tunnel," Parker said. "Perhaps in the third and fourth quarter, based on our current business plan, we should start to see some improvement in product availability.”
At Genesis, April volume rose 53 percent to 5,039, a record for the month and the brand's 17th straight increase. Sales of the GV70 crossover eclipsed combined deliveries of the brand's three sedans.
Volvo sales dropped 9.2 percent, its eighth monthly decline.