Auto Sales Plunge in March – Robert Hughes (04/08/2020)

Sales of light vehicles totaled 11.4 million at an annual rate in March, down sharply from a 16.7 million pace in February (see top chart). The pace of sales in March is the lowest since April 2010 and ends a run of 72 months in the 16 to 18 million range. Unit vehicle sales fell significantly below the range as the 2008–9 recession began, hitting a low of just 9.0 million in February 2009. Sales began a slow recovery and returned to the 16 to 18 million range in March 2014 (see top chart).

As of March 2020, light-truck sales totaled 8.5 million at an annual rate, the lowest since February 2014, while cars managed just 2.9 million, the lowest on record going back to 1967. That puts the light-truck share at 74.8 percent, completely dominating the car share of 25.2 percent. The rising share of light-trucks continues a trend in place since 2013 (see bottom chart). In February 2013, the split between cars and light-trucks (SUVs and pick-up trucks) was about even, with both segments selling about 7.76 million at an annual rate.

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