Big pickups helped pull the Detroit 3 through the early weeks of a crisis that has shuttered plants and kept many would-be buyers at home.
In a quarter when total U.S. new-vehicle sales fell double digits, deliveries of full-size pickups rose 3 percent. General Motors posted its best first-quarter full-size pickup sales in 13 years after rolling out no-interest financing on seven-year loans, and Ram was among just three brands in the entire industry to report an increase last week.
As sales dried up at dealerships around much of the country starting in mid-March, there was far less disruption in states such as Texas, Florida and Georgia, where governors were slower to put restrictions on residents and businesses. March pickup sales were exactly in line with J.D. Power's pre-coronavirus forecast in the Southeast and off just 1 percent in the South Central region. Meanwhile, sales in the Northeast plummeted 29 percent below expectations.
"As some states put strict social distancing orders in place, others were business as usual, and for us, that meant truck sales continued," a GM spokeswoman said.
The coming months could prove more challenging for all vehicle segments, including pickups, as more states restrict commercial activity and tell residents to cancel all nonessential travel. Markets where stay-at-home restrictions are in place "typically show an 80 percent reduction in sales from the baseline forecast shortly after orders are enacted," J.D. Power said.
Even before Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a stay-at-home order last week, Dallas and other parts of the state already had restrictions. Yet Dallas was one of the more resilient new-vehicle markets last month.
"It's doing so based on pickup truck sales, which are being held up with very hefty incentives," said Tyson Jominy, vice president of data and analytics at J.D. Power. "This is keeping more consumers in-market than we see in another location. So even though Dallas has had an order in place, it has held up fairly well."