(Updated) Early 2020 Sales Report: Sales Are Indeed Taking A Nosedive As First Quarter Results Roll In

COVID-19 and the accompanying stay-at-home orders are wreaking havoc on new vehicle sales

Hyundai is one of the first brands to report its March and first-quarter 2020 sales. [Photo: Hyundai]

As we roll further along into 2020, April 1 should be the first opportunity we have to see how well the automotive industry is doing through quarterly sales reports. Huge sellers like General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles report their sales in quarterly chunks, but the results this time around aren’t encouraging, to say the least. The novel coronavirus outbreak, the COVID-19 disease that results from the virus, and the consequential production and dealer shutdowns are wreaking havoc on the industry.

Throughout March, analysts were predicting that sales would plummet by half or more. Until the danger from COVID-19 subsides, dealers throughout the country are forced to halt their sales operations, laying off thousands of employees or even going out of business entirely in the process. Now, we have a chance to see the first signs of the outbreak’s impact on new car and truck sales.

In short, the figures are more or less what you’d expect. As buyers are encouraged or bound by law to stay in their homes, the first companies to report sales show the sudden and severe impact we knew was coming. Note: This article will be updated as automakers continue to report sales figures.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
Even models that historically sell well, like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, took a wallop this quarter. [Photo: FCA]

March and Q1 sales: by the numbers

As of early Wednesday morning, Hyundai, FCA and General Motors are among the first to report their sales figures.

In the month of March alone, Hyundai reported a 43 percent decline year-over-year from 2019. Its quarterly sales, on the other hand, took a lesser blow thanks to a strong January and February performance, dropping off 11 percent. While every model saw a steep drop in sales last month — Sonata sold 3,957 units and Santa Fe sold 6,358, both down by about half — some models like the Ioniq still managed to pick up slightly in the first quarter. Hyundai’s electrified model sold 3,522 units in the first three months of 2020, up from the 3,310 models sold up to this point last year. All other models (excluding new cars like the Venue and Palisade) were down from this point last year.

Moving over to General Motors, the company as a whole saw a 7.1 drop in first quarter sales from 2019 (618,335 units). Sales of the Silverado pickup actually picked up in the first three months of 2020 after a slow start in 2019, so the Chevrolet brand weathered the recent events fairly well. Chevy sales declined 3.8 percent, although there was one outliner. Blazer sales actually rose six-fold from this point in 2019, now that sales of the model are in full swing. Momentum has undoubtedly slowed a bit in the wake of this outbreak, but this does show the Blazer coming into its own as a solid seller, as GM sheds itself of passenger cars and doubles down on crossovers.

Buick sales were down 34.7 percent this quarter, while Cadillac sales were down 15.8 percent. The CT5 sold approximately 3,000 units which helped stem the flow, and the Escalade also weathered the storm better than the brand’s other models. GMC sales were also cushioned thanks to the Sierra pickup trucks, which were up at least 27 percent.

Fiat Chrysler also reported its sales down 10 percent in the first quarter, with 446,768 units. Fiat, which was already hurting before the current situation, was down 49 percent from this point in 2019. Dodge was down 20 percent, while Alfa Romeo was down 14 percent. Jeep was also down 14 percent, as the Gladiator comes into play to help boost the brand’s figures, as GM’s trucks did. The Chrysler Pacifica fared well, with sales picking up 5 percent, while the brand itself fell slightly, by just 5 percent.

Ram also fared well thanks to its truck sales, which rose 7 percent. The ProMaster van didn’t fare quite as well, but like GM truck sales were a boon to FCA this quarter. With gas prices fairly low and great incentives on sales right now, that trend may continue into the second quarter as well.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Toyota sales are down 8 percent so far this year, with 495,747 vehicles sold (from 543,716 in 2019).

More results (and updates)

While the major players aren’t experiencing sharp downturns, that’s not really the case for the smaller automakers. Mazda, for example, saw its sales fall 41.8 percent in March alone. Even its cash cow, the CX-5, fell by exactly 41.8 percent, selling just 7,841 units. The Mazda3, Mazda6 and CX-3 all suffered, as they lost two-thirds of their sales or more from this point last year. Year-to-date sales are only down 4.5 percent — showing a much stronger start to the year. However, this is a trend that may continue into April as well.

Later on Wednesday, Toyota reported its own March and first quarter sales. The brand sold 135,730 vehicles (including trucks), down 31.8 percent from this point in 2019. The RAV4 is still the best-seller by far, selling 24,875 units in March. That’s down 25 percent, and all of Toyota’s other models tell a similar story. However, hybrid sales are actually up thanks in large part to the RAV4 Hybrid, as well as the Corolla Hybrid. The new RAV4 managed 5,840 sales in March, up 555 percent from the 892 sold in March 2019. On the whole, Toyota is down 7.9 percent in year-to-date sales so far in 2020.

Lexus, for its part, suffered across the board in March. Its sales were down 46.7 percent, with even the most popular RX falling by half (5,534 sales).

Volkswagen’s March sales were down 42 percent due to the ongoing pandemic. [Photo: Volkswagen]

Volkswagen was another automaker that came out strong in January and February 2020. March sales were down 42 percent, while the first quarter saw a 13 percent drop for the brand from this point in 2019. VW sales totaled 75,075, thanks in large part to the Atlas and Tiguan which make up half of the brand’s total sales. The Jetta fell just 7 percent, while the Golf R actually picked up substantially from the standstill it found itself in last year. The Golf SportWagen also sold well (with 2,443 units sold) in early 2020, though that’s likely down to dealers shedding their inventory, as the wagon was axed late last year.

2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Package
Despite the ongoing situation, Ford mustang sales did pick up nearly 7 percent.

Ford announced its sales Tuesday, with the Ford brand slipping 13.2 percent compared to Q1 2019. Interestingly, Lincoln sales still improved, despite the ongoing dealer shutdown situation. The best-selling Lincoln model over the first three months of 2020 was the Corsair at 5,670 units, which was only down 2.0 percent. Continental sales actually picked up 15.4 percent, with Lincoln dealers moving 1,563 cars. On the Ford side, Mustang sales picked up 6.8 percent (18,069 sold in Q1 2019) and the Ranger pickup also gaining steam. In the past three months, Ford sold 20,980 Rangers, up 122.7 percent from early 2019, when the truck just went on sale.