Stay-at-home orders and plant shutdowns prompted by the spread of COVID-19 were a major impediment to sales between April 1 and June 30.
FCA has reported a quarterly decline in U.S. sales of 39 percent; GM, a decline of 34 percent. Hyundai saw its March sales drop by 18 percent.
We will update this story as other automakers release quarterly sales numbers.
Most automakers have shifted to a quarterly release of U.S. new-vehicle sales data, but if they were hoping to limit the number of bad headlines during the COVID-19 crisis, perhaps a biannual or even biennial release schedule would be better. When automakers reported 2020's first-quarter sales in early April, one optimistic message at the time was that we would have to wait until second-quarter numbers were released to get a better handle on the coronavirus's true impact on the industry.
Well, the second quarter is here and the verdict is in: this thing is real, but the hard decline of April was mitigated by two months, May and June, that weren't quite as bad. Fleet sales were hit hard, and supplies were low for most of the quarter, given that automakers did not manufacture many vehicles once COVID-19 had shut down factories around the world.
Audi: Q3 Up, Others Down, Sales Drop 35 Percent
Audi’s lone bright spot in second-quarter sales numbers was the Q3 SUV, which sold over 4,400 units in 2020 compared to just 34 last year. But outliers like this only serve to highlight the negative signs in front of every other model when comparing their year-over-year changes. All of Audi’s non-Q3 models were down, with four dropping 50 percent or more: the Q7, Q5, A7 and A6. The Q8 was close, down 48 percent. Overall, Audi’s sales were down 35 percent this quarter.
BMW/Mini: X1, 8-Series Way Up, Overall Sales Down 40 Percent
For BMW and Mini, a few models kept things from entering truly terrible territory. The refreshed 2-series did well, with sales up 131 percent (not a typo) over the second quarter of 2019. The 8-series was also up, this one by 90 percent, and the X1 saw a quarterly increase of 11 percent. But even these success stories could not stem the overall bleeding, with BMW and Mini sales down 39.3 and 41.5 percent, respectively.
FCA: Down 39 Percent, Gladiator Strong
Fiat Chrysler sales were also down in the second quarter, dropping a serious 39 percent compared to the same time last year. FCA said May and June sales were higher than expected after April’s "economic havoc" caused by COVID-19. At least online sales are up, with FCA saying that about 20 percent of its new-vehicle sales now start as an online retail process, compared with just 1 percent last year. And people were undoubtedly interested in the all-new Gladiator, which saw its sales climb 174 percent in the second quarter. Even so, FCA sales are down 26 percent year to date compared to 2019.
Ford: Big Sales, but Still 33 Percent Less Than 2019
Ford sold a lot of vehicles last quarter—433,869—but its total sales were down 33.3 percent compared to the same period in 2019. Ford brand sales dropped 33.9 percent, and Lincoln was down 18. Ford’s flee numbers took the biggest hit—sales for "daily rental" use were down a whopping 94 percent, and other commercial fleet sales dropped 78 percent—but since the entire industry saw lower sales numbers in Q2, at least Ford could report that its percentage of the overall retail share climbed to 13.3 percent, which Ford said was its best retail share quarter in five years.
GM: Sales Down 34 Percent, Blazer Did Well
General Motors saw a sales decline of 34 percent across its brands in the second quarter compared to 2019, selling 492,489 vehicles in the last three months.
The few bright spots, meaning models where the sales numbers were not in the negative, for the second quarter include the Chevy Blazer (up 68 percent compared to the same period last year), the Trax (basically flat, with a 3 percent increase), and some heavy-duty models. With most of GM's U.S. factories back to "normal operating levels," GM says that its supply of new vehicles will climb thanks to increased production as well as "capacity made available by lower rental volumes."
Honda/Acura: Cars Down 26 Percent, Trucks Did Better
Honda’s fortunes didn’t fall as much as some, with an overall drop of 15.5 percent for Honda and Acura. Honda's truck sales were basically COVID-even, with the second quarter of 2019, dropping just 6.9 percent, but its car sales took a 25.9 percent fall. The Clarity was the brand’s big loser, falling 82.9 percent in Q2 compared to 2019. As with other automakers, Honda’s larger vehicles fared better, with the HR-V dropping only 2.4 percent and the Pilot going up 4.7 percent. On the Acura side, the RDX was up a notable 11.1 percent.
Hyundai: Down 18 Percent, Fleets the Main Problem
Hyundai sales were also down, moving a total of 141,722 vehicles in the second quarter, a 24 percent decrease from 2019. Year to date, Hyundai's sales are down 18 percent, mostly due to fleet sales which, even though they only made up 2 percent of Hyundai's total volume, were down 93 percent. The company said its retail sales were down only 3 percent in that time frame.
Hyundai's luxury Genesis brand was also down 38 percent in the second quarter.
Kia: Sorento Did Well, Overall Sales Down 25.5 Percent
For Kia, there was good news on some fronts - a top ranking in the latest J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, the Sorento having its best ever retail sales performance for June - but it could not avoid the widespread reality. Compared to the second quarter of 2019, Kia’s sales were down 25.5 percent in Q2 2020.
Mazda: Down 9.6 Percent, but New CX-30 Was Strong
Mazda was down 9.6 percent overall in the second quarter compared to 2019, but there were some highlights. The brand-new CX-30 crossover helped stem the downward tide, and both the MX-5 Miata and CX-9 were up, 9.9 and 14.2 percent, respectively, in Q2. As with other automakers, Mazda’s June numbers looked good (and were actually up 11 percent compared to 2019), but not enough to turn the quarter around.
Mitsubishi: Down 58 Percent, with Outlander Biggest Loser
Mitsubishi did not have much good news to report, since its sales were down 58 percent in the second quarter compared to 2019, selling just 12,197 vehicles in the last three months. The biggest drops were seen in the Outlander (down 76.9 percent) and the Eclipse Cross (down 67.6 percent).
Nissan/Infiniti: Down Almost 50 Percent
Nissan and Infiniti managed to see the worst drop of quarter (at least of those automakers whose numbers are out as of this writing), with sales that were 49.5 percent lower in 2020 than 2019. Murano sales were basically even with last year, and 370Z sales, small as they are, were up 24 percent. Most other models plummeted, but none worse than the electric Leaf and the Versa, which both fell 68 percent. Overall, Nissan and Infiniti’s car sales were down 61 percent and their truck sales were down "only" 41 percent in Q2.
Subaru Down 25 Percent, but Forester Has Best June Ever
Subaru, which is joining its industry peers in shifting to a quarterly sales data release schedule, reported second-quarter numbers that were down 25.3 percent compared to 2019. Subaru senior vice president of sales Jeff Walters said in a statement that even "in the midst of a competitive market limited by the pandemic, the Forester continued to shine.” That’s because the Forester had its best June ever, selling 19,490 units last month.
Toyota/Lexus: Mirai and Sienna Saw Biggest Drops
Toyota and Lexus were down 34.6 percent overall, with Toyota selling 35.6 percent fewer vehicles in the second quarter of 2020 compared to 2019, and Lexus seeing a 26.8 percent drop. The biggest losers were the fuel-cell-powered Mirai, which saw a 90 percent sales drop, and the Sienna, down 76 percent. Larger vehicles didn’t fare quite as poorly, with the aging Lexus GX actually up 11.8 percent.
Volkswagen: Passat, Arteon Successes Limit Decline to 29 Percent
VW didn't have as terrible a quarter compared to the rest of the industry, with its sales falling 29 percent. Things would have been worse, but sales of the Passat and Arteon were actually up 11 and 33 percent, respectively. As with Toyota and Nissan, consumers soured most on the alternative-fuel models, with the discontinued e-Golf leading the sales decline by dropping 88 percent.
Volvo: Best June Since 2006, Still Down 15 Percent
Volvo also had some good news to report, all things considered. The brand had its best June sales numbers since 2006, but when taken as a whole, Volvo’s second-quarter sales were down 15.3 percent. Volvo does not break down individual model sales figures, but did say that its XC family of SUVs made up 83 percent of the company’s total sales in June, with the XC40 compact SUV even managing to set a new monthly sales record, beating May’s record sales by 10 units.
So that’s the state of the industry in the middle of 2020. It's our least favorite year in quite a while, but the bad news is likely to continue for the rest of the year, given that the U.S. has yet to get the coronavirus under control and many states are slowing down their reopening plans. We'll check back in three months from now to take stock, but we're not holding our breath for good news if for no other reason than because the last time we had quarterly reports to look at, "only" 3900 people had died of coronavirus in the U.S. That number currently stands at around 120,000.
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