skip to Main Content

USA April 2020: Market down -50%, lowest SAAR in over 40 years at 8.6 million

41 US States and Territories were under stay-at-home orders in April.

8/05 update: Now with Volvo brand and models data.

New light vehicle sales in the U.S. collapse -53% year-on-year in April to just 625.000 units according to estimates from ALG, Cox and Edmunds, pulling the year-to-date tally down -22.4% to 4.138.000 units. This is the lowest monthly volume in over 30 years, as it drops below the low of 657.161 from January 2009 when the Great Recession was at its deepest (note these figures were later updated to -50% and 668.000 units for April, and -21.6% and 4.181.000 YTD). The Seasonally Adjusted Annualised Sales Rate (SAAR) is expected to freefall -53.7% to 7.6 million vs. 16.41 million in April 2019 and 11.37 million last month (The SAAR would later be updated to 8.6 million). This means U.S. sales have hit their lowest pace in over 40 years, even falling below the 8.8 million SAAR hit in December 1981 as well as the low of 9.05 million from February 2009. 2020 volumes are now forecast to drop -24% to 13 million units. These dreadful results come as the U.S. have become the epicentre of the COVID-19 epidemic, accounting for one-third of all global infections (1.16m out of 3.51m) and 67.682 deaths out of 247.470 globally. Up to 92% of the U.S. population was under stay-at-home orders for much of April, while a dozen states have started reopening late in the month against the advice from health officials (see map below).

US States in lockdown as of May 1. Source Business Insider.

As of April 24, showroom sales were permitted in 24 states while online sales only were allowed in the other 26, with Michigan and Pennsylvania easing their stay-at-home mandates to allow the remote vehicle sales. Around the same time, a Federal guidance declared new car sales an essential business, allowing them to gradually reopen in most States. The good news is that sales appear to have bottomed out, with volumes up 20% over the last 10 days of April compared with the same period in March according to Toyota. Even the areas most affected by the virus are starting to see some progression: sales were down -85% in New York and -77% in Detroit for the week ending April 19 compared to -98% and -80% respectively for the week ending April 12. Some markets even managed to almost return to pre-virus volumes such as Dallas, Texas or Phoenix, Arizona, off -14% during the last week of April.

Sales in New York were down -98% in the week ending April 12, but -85% the week after.

As far as segments are concerned, according to J.D. Power pickup trucks continue to outperform the market with deliveries down just -9% from pre-virus forecasts for the week ending May 1. vs. -16% for the week ending April 19. According to Kelly Blue Book, the average transaction price for a light vehicle is $38,060 in April, up 2% year-on-year. 0% finance deals have exploded since the coronavirus: they accounted for 26% of all financed purchases in April, compared to just 4.7% in March and 3.6% in February, marking the highest level for such deals since 2004. 84 month 0% loans now account for 19% of auto financing, up from 7% prior to the COVID-19 crisis according to J.D. Power. The Detroit 3 along with Subaru, Hyundai, Kia, VW, Audi, Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover all have 0% finance offers with extended terms of 72 and 84 months, while Jeep is offering employee pricing on certain models and many brands including Hyundai have a three-to-six-months deferred payment option for new buyers.

Incentives reportedly reached a record of $5,100 per unit over the first week of April according to J.D. Power, with light-duty pickup trucks hitting incentives averaging $7,300 per unit, the highest on record. They remained near record levels at $4,800 per unit during the week ending April 26, still according to J.D. Power. For its part ALG estimates average incentives up 20% year-on-year to $4,079 per vehicle in April, with BMW ($6,488), General Motors ($5,444), Daimler ($5,621) and FCA ($5,184) the most generous and Nissan (+38%), Honda (+34%), Volkswagen (+27%) the ones increasing the most year-on-year.

Pickup truck sales are down just -9% year-on-year for the week ending May 1.

Although the Detroit 3 have long stopped communicating monthly let alone weekly sales, Wards Auto reported on April 9 that the combined retail market share for General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler remained above 50% for a second consecutive week for the first time since 2006, rising 11 percentage points since the week ending March 15. Even though that share dropped to 47% for the week ending April 12 and 46% for the week ending April 19, these remain way above traditional levels. The 5 groups still sharing monthly sales figures see their volumes drop -49.4% to 250.484 in April, pulling the YTD tally down -21.2% to 1.516.052. Hyundai-Kia (-38.7%) is once again head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to resistance, with Kia down -38.3%, Hyundai down -38.7% and Genesis (-49.8%) weighing down the lot. Hyundai light trucks only edge down -13% to 21.305 while cars sink -59% to 12.663. Hyundai retail sales slide down -28% but fleet shipments skid -74%.

The Kia Singer is one of only two year-on-year gainers in our selection. Picture

Toyota Motor is down -53.9%, light trucks down -50% and cars down -60% with incentives up 24% year-on-year to $2.551. Fleet shipments are down -85% for the month. American Honda drops -54% with light trucks down -53% and cars down -55% and Volvo is down a similar -53.8%. Mazda (-44.5%) also resists better than average with trucks down -34% and cars at -63%, while Subaru (-46.6%) also manages to lose less than half its April 2019 volume. Out of the 68 models for whom official sales are available, only the Volvo V60 (+333.3%) and the Kia Stinger (+3.8%) register a year-on-year gain, and 8 drop less than 35%: the Hyundai Tucson (-2.8%), Kia Optima (-18%), Mazda Miata (-29.4%), Toyota Tacoma (-30%), Kia Rio (-31%), Mazda CX-9 (-33%), Kia Sedona (-33.9%) and Kia Sportage (-34.8%).

Previous post: USA Full Year 2019: Exclusive State by State rankings available

Previous month: USA March 2020: Sales tumble -39% under COVID-19 pressure, Q1 down -11.9%, Chevrolet Silverado shoots up

One year ago: USA April 2019: Nissan (+10.7%) rebounds, Ram (+25.2%) stuns in 4th straight market decline (-2.6%)

Full April 2020 sales for available groups, brands and models below.

This content is for Platinum members only.
Log In Register
Back To Top