It's shaping up to be an ugly summer for the auto retail industry, which is relearning an old lesson: You can't sell what you don't have.
A dearth of new vehicles, fueled by a gummed-up supply chain, drove double-digit sales declines for six of the seven automakers reporting for May.
Collectively, those automakers' U.S. sales skidded 31 percent from a year earlier, according to the Automotive News Research & Data Center. The group's sales for the year were down 20 percent.
Overall, U.S. sales slid 29 percent to 1.1 million last month, vehicle forecaster LMC Automotive said, leaving the market down 19 percent to 5.65 million through May.
The seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of sales for May fell to a 2022 low of 12.81 million, according to Motor Intelligence, down from May 2021's 17.12 million rate, which capped one of the hottest three-month stretches ever for the U.S. auto market.
Jesse Toprak, chief analyst at Autonomy, doesn't expect vehicle shortages to ease until the second half of the year.
"The wild card is whether the demand side will still be as forceful when more vehicles are finally available in showrooms," Toprak said. "Current market dynamics are forcing consumers to change their purchase and ownership patterns, resulting in a diversion of some demand to the used-car market — therefore running up the prices of pre-owned vehicles."