August 2020 Sales Report: New Car Sales Continued To Slip, But The Gap Is Shrinking

SUVs, as ever, are making the difference as Americans get back in the new car market

While sales figures in April and July painted a grim picture, automakers aren’t quite done seeing red yet. For those who reported in August, however, the car sales gap is shrinking from this point in 2019 after COVID-19 lockdowns hammered sales back in March and April. There were two fewer selling days in August, which did contribute somewhat to the drops from last year.

Hyundai sales nearly stabilize

Hyundai is usually one of the first automakers to report its car sales. The Korean automaker reported an 8.4 percent drop from August 2019, but that’s mostly due to dropping fleet sales. Retail transactions to customers in the general public, on the other hand, only fell 2 percent. “Despite a down market, our SUVs continue to drive sales and deliver results for us and our dealers,” national vice president of Hyundai Motor America sales Randy Parker said. To that point, the Hyundai Palisade rose 56 percent, with dealers shifting some 7,983 examples to customers. The Tucson also fared better than most as the brand’s best-selling model, moving 11,632 units.

Looking at Hyundai’s luxury arm, however, the picture isn’t quite as rosy yet. Genesis sales fell 23 percent in August, mainly due to a precipitous drop in G80 sales. Mind you, there is a new G80 hitting dealers this month, which could have compelled some buyers to wait. The new GV80 is also on the way, and SUVs should help boost the brand’s sales into the black once more.

Mazda sales propped up by the CX-30

There were some more positive notes out of Mazda, as well. Overall, August 2020 sales did decline 5.1 percent from this point in 2019. However, the automaker has managed to claw back sales thanks to its new Mazda3-based CX-30 crossover — sales it could have otherwise lost to the competition. Mazda sold 3,862 examples in August, and the CX-30 is already the brand’s second best-selling model of the year, after its cash cow CX-5.

CX-5 sales actually fell 11.8 percent to 13,745 units from this point in 2019. However, Mazda says it’s still the second-best August in for the model since it launched. The three-row CX-9 similarly had its second-best August since 2011, even though its 2,443 sales represented a 6.6 percent drop from 2019. The worst-hit, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the aging CX-3, whose sales fell 57.5 percent to just 860 units, as many buyers likely opted for the CX-30 instead.

Subaru posts “best month of 2020”

Overall, Subaru car sales fell 17 percent from August 2019. The automaker points out that reflects the impact but of COVID-19 on the industry, but signs are improving as August’s figures represented the best sales month of the year for the brand so far.

Sales are normally neck and neck between the Outback and the Forester, but that was not the case last month. Instead, the Forester picked up by a slight 1.1 percent to 17,261 sales in August. Its sibling, on the other hand, dropped by 13.2 percent, selling just 14,856 units. Overall, the brand sold 57,885 cars, compared to 70,039 in August 2019.

Strangely, Subaru’s only other model to gain ground was the rear-wheel drive BRZ. Its sales actually picked up 69 percent, possibly as some are grabbing the last examples of the current generation before a new model launches. That still only represents 267 cars sold for the brand, but that’s much better than the 158 units dealers shifted last August.

Toyota posts fifth straight month of declining sales

As one of the world’s largest automakers, Toyota’s 24.5 percent sales drop in August is a stark sign that the industry hasn’t returned to normal yet. The automaker shut down its factories with the rest of the industry for nearly two months starting in March. From that point forward, everyone has been playing catch up. As part of that process, Toyota posted its fifth straight month of declining sales.