Editor's note: This article has been corrected to note that Mazda recorded a year-over-year sales increase in June. An earlier version of the chart above also misstated the change in Mazda's second-quarter U.S. sales.
U.S. auto sales fell 33 percent in the second quarter – a sharp decline that surprised no one – as the industry provided its first detailed look at the toll on consumer demand exacted by the coronavirus.
Against the backdrop of a gradually reopening economy and surging COVID-19 cases in many states, declines ranged from 25 percent to 50 percent among the biggest automakers, some of which provided their first sales update since early April.
“After falling into a deep recession in March, the U.S. economy has begun to recover as it reopens,” General Motors Chief Economist Elaine Buckberg said in a statement.
But she cautioned: “The path forward may not be linear, as rising infections in many states may lead to steps backward in the reopening process.”
With demand off 24 percent in the first six months, the industry enters the second half of the year with a dramatically different mindset than in early January. At that time, when reports of a deadly virus were first trickling out of China, the more optimistic estimates held a chance for a sixth straight year of U.S. light-vehicle sales above 17 million.
Motor Intelligence pegged June's seasonally adjusted annual sales rate at 13.15 million, the highest monthly figure since February's 17.05 million pace. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas has lowered his July SAAR forecast to 12 million from 13.5 million, on expectations that new-vehicle stockpiles at dealerships will shrink.
Company by company
GM said volume dropped 34 percent during the quarter, with retail deliveries down 24 percent, and overall sales off 34 percent at Chevrolet, 33 percent at GMC, 36 percent at Buick and 41 percent at Cadillac.
Facing shortages of key models as consumer demand slowly recovers, particularly large pickups and SUVs, GM said its increasing factory output "will be devoted to restocking retail channels with capacity made available by lower rental volumes."
Second-quarter volume dropped 33 percent at Ford Motor Co., with just two nameplates, Ford Ranger and Ford Explorer, posting gains, and overall retail volume down 14 percent. Sales fell 34 percent at the Ford division and 18 percent at Lincoln.
The company was hit particularly hard by lower fleet volume, with shipments to daily rental customers off 94 percent and commercial deliveries down 78 percent during the period.
FCA US, citing the economic havoc caused by the outbreak, said second-quarter U.S. sales slumped 39 percent to 367,086, with every brand posting a decline of 21 percent or more. Volume fell 27 percent at Jeep and 35 percent at Ram.
Jeff Kommor, head of U.S. sales for FCA, said retail sales have rebounded since April, with steady gasoline prices, access to low-interest finance rates and renewed economic activity prompting some consumers to shop and purchase a new car or truck.
FCA said it prioritized retail deliveries over fleet volume in the second quarter and indicated it has a "strong fleet order book" which will be fulfilled in the second half.
At Toyota Motor Corp., June sales fell 10 percent at Lexus and 29 percent at the Toyota division.The company was down 35 percent for the quarter.
American Honda, after a 16 percent drop in June volume, finished the second quarter down 28 percent, with similar declines at the Honda brand and Acura.
"We’ve returned to business with April to June sales stronger than we could have expected, with the pace of recovery accelerating in the second half of the quarter,” sales chief Dave Gardner said in a statement. “We’re running a bit lean on inventory, but our dealers have been remarkably nimble in adapting to one of the greatest challenges our industry has ever seen."
At Nissan, second-quarter sales plunged 50 percent behind a 50 percent drop at Nissan and a 44 percent decline at Infiniti. Still, the automaker said retail sales exceeded expectations as it continues to "decrease rental fleet volume and focus on steadily building a quality, sustainable business."
Hyundai sales fell 22 percent in June, the brand’s second-smallest monthly drop since the coronavirus idled the auto industry and shuttered showrooms coast to coast starting in March. Second-quarter volume dropped 24 percent.
Hyundai said retail sales, up 6 percent to 48,935, rose for the second consecutive month in June, behind strong crossover volume, which represented 69 percent of retail deliveries. Hyundai was one of just two automakers to cut incentives last month, according to ALG/TrueCar. (See chart below.)
Fleet sales dropped 93 percent and represented 2 percent of June volume, the company said.
Among other automakers, June sales slipped 12 percent at Subaru and 25 percent for the quarter. Second-quarter deliveries fell 29 percent at Volkswagen of America, 17 percent at Mercedes-Benz, 40 percent BMW of North America and 58 percent at Mitsubishi.
Mazda recorded a sales increase of more than 10 percent in June, while second-quarter volume fell 9.6 percent.
Volvo tallied a 15 percent quarterly decline and Porsche dropped 20 percent.
U.S. sales at Jaguar Land Rover fell an estimated 31 percent in the second quarter, with Jaguar off 29 percent and Land Rover down 31 percent, according to Automotive News Data Center projections.