Auto Sales Tumble in 2020, Industry Optimistic About 2021
U.S. auto sales for 2020 dropped to their lowest level since the Great Recession. Total sales of cars, SUVs, vans, and light trucks were 14.57 million. That's down 14.6% compared to 2019, but in light of the global pandemic, which shuttered factories and dealers for months, the sales results are much better than many expected.
Starting on March 15 as the fear of the pandemic kicked into high gear, auto sales fell off a cliff. April 2020 was one of the worst sales years in recent history, but both consumers and auto dealers demonstrated considerable resiliency. Many dealers began to offer no-contact online vehicle sales, and consumers responded. While the total market was down 34% at the half-year mark, a strong second-half recovery cut the drop in half by year's end.
"Sales in 2020 ended down 15%, but there's reason for optimism between the lines," Tyson Jominy, vice president of data & analytics at J.D. Power, said. "Nearly half of the decline came from sales to fleet customers, which is a much smaller and lower profitability part of the industry. The more numerous and profitable sales to retail customers grew in three of the final four months of the year, so 2021 is starting with a lot of momentum."
In the face of strong headwinds, Alfa Romeo, Mazda, Tesla Motors, and Volvo brands all managed to turn in increased sales for the entire year. Tesla was the big winner with sales growth of 20.3%. Sales of electric vehicles as a category grew almost 10%.
At the same time, nearly all the mainstream manufacturers' sales were off by double-digit percentages. Hit by a lack of demand for some vehicles and lack of supply for others, both domestics and import brands were hard-hit by the effects of the pandemic.
According to data compiled by Automotive News, the following automakers saw sales declines in 2020:
- Fiat Chrysler was down 17.5%
- Ford Motor Company was down 15.4%
- General Motors was down 11.9%
- Honda was down 16.3%
- Hyundai was down 9.7%
- Kia was down 4.8%
- Nissan was down 33.2%
- Subaru was 12.6%
- Toyota was down 11.3%
- Volkswagen was down 10.3%