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USA August 2020: Economic uncertainty, low inventories hold volumes down -20%, Volvo (+12.9%) only gainer

Volvo is the only carmaker in positive among those reporting monthly.

9/09 update: Now with Lexus and Toyota models data.

U.S. new light vehicle volumes see their recovery halted in August at -20% year-on-year to 1.32 million units based on estimates from Cox Automotive and LMC Automotive. This is a steeper fall than in July which was estimated at -16% and leads to a year-to-date tally down -21.9% to 8.98 million. However because of calendar quirks that counted Labor Day weekend sales in August last year but September this year, the Seasonally Adjusted Annualised Sales Rate (SAAR) improves month-on-month to 15.18 million according to Motor Intelligence, to be compared with 14.53m in July, 13.18m in June, 12.06m in May and 8.81m in April. It remains well under year-ago levels however, at -11.2% on the 17.1m sales pace of August 2019. High unemployment, sinking consumer confidence, reduced household spending, uncertainty surrounding the economic recovery as well as the end of eviction moratoriums and various support measures on July 31 as well as  have all combined to sink the U.S. new light vehicle market well into double-digits in August. According to The Aspen Institute, if no rental support measures are reinstated, between 29 to 43% of renter households could be at risk of eviction by the end of the year.

Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist for Cox Automotive, believes the damage done to U.S. economy and consumer confidence is so bad it could be 3 or 4 years before auto sales recover to pre-pandemic levels. In August, daily life remained hampered by another 1.1 million Covid-19 infections. They now total at least 6.2 million, still roughly 50% more than the next most affected countries in the world, Brazil (4.m) and India (3.9m) just as U.S. lives lost to coronavirus are approaching 200.000. As for the light vehicle market specifically, shrinking inventories still stemming from factory closures earlier in the year, reduced fleet demand and lower incentives all hurt sales. According to Cox Automotive, Toyota, Lexus, and BMW each had less than a 40-day supply of vehicles in late August, far below the current industry average of 60. According to J.D. Power, nearly 45% of all new vehicles sold in August spent fewer than 20 days on dealer lots, up from 35% last year. J.D. Power says average incentives are down -1.2% year-on-year to $4,105 while ALG estimates they are up 5% to $3.902 (see table). The average U.S. transaction price for a new light vehicle is up 3.9% or $1.442 year-on-year to $38.635 in August and up $72 or 0.2% on last month. In an economy stripped from the need of rental cars as tourism flounders, fleet shipments continue to be battered at -34% year-on-year to 141.900 or roughly 11% share vs. 14% a year ago according to J.D. Power.

Excellent U.S. start for the new Kia K5.

The main three groups still reporting monthly sales are down this month: Toyota Motor (-22.7%) is hit the hardest as stock shortages sting with cars down -27% and light trucks off -21%. American Honda is down -21.9% and Hyundai-Kia softens the blow at -7.5%. Brand-wise, Volvo (+12.9%) becomes the only carmaker sporting a year-on-year gain in August, achieving three straight months of growth. Mazda (-5.1%) tilts back into negative after two months of upticks as cars sink -29% but crossovers gain 3.3%, Kia (-6.1%) and Hyundai (-8.4%) also keep their loss to the single-digits. Hyundai crossovers are up 6% but cars down -27% while retail sales dip -2% and fleets freefall -63%. Lexus (-9.5%) and Acura (-10.2%) also resist relatively well but Toyota (-24.6%), Honda (-23%), Genesis (-22.6%) and Subaru (-17.4%) are all in bad shape. A significantly lower number of models manage a year-on-year improvement compared to last month. They include, in decreasing volume order, the Subaru Forester (+1.1%), Hyundai Kona (+25.3%), Palisade (+56.1%), Kia Telluride (+18.6%) breaking its all-time volume record at 7.558, Volvo XC60 (+1.9%), Lexus GX (+3.9%) and Volvo XC40 (+28.8%). Among recent launches (<12 months), the Kia Seltos (5.314), Mazda CX-30 (3.862) and Kia K5 (3.631) all post their largest ever month volume.

Previous month: USA July 2020: Recovery (-16%) complicated by record infections, high unemployment, low inventories – Volvo (+10.3%) and Mazda (+3.5%) in positive again

One year ago: USA August 2019: Fleet, incentives lift market to largest gain in 4 years (+10.3%), Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V break all-time records

Full July 2020 figures for selected 6 groups, 10 brands and 95 models below.

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