GM, Fiat Chrysler U.S. Auto Sales Tank In Second Quarter As Coronavirus Saps Demand

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Cars sit in a dealership lot on the first day that dealerships are allowed to open to the public on May 20, 2020 in Linden, New Jersey.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

U.S. vehicle sales in the second quarter for General Motors, Toyota Motor and Fiat Chrysler plunged by more than 30% as the coronavirus caused consumers to stay at home, and dealerships and factories to shutter.

The hefty declines are in line with what Wall Street expected. Nissan Motor, Hyundai Motor and Porsche also reported significant drops in sales between April and June compared with a year earlier. Most of the U.S., European and Asian automakers report their second-quarter auto sales Wednesday.

U.S. vehicle sales were forecast to fall by about 34% in the second quarter, according to auto research firms Edmunds and TrueCar's ALG. The second quarter is expected to be the worst of the year for the automakers due to the pandemic. 

Year over year, GM reported a 34% decline in sales in the second quarter, while Fiat Chrysler said vehicles sold fell 38.6%. Toyota said sales dropped 34.6% during the three months ended Tuesday compared with a year ago.

Shares of Fiat Chrysler fell by more than 3% in afternoon trading Wednesday. Shares of GM were slightly in the red. Toyota's stock was down nearly 1%.

Both GM and Fiat Chrysler said full-size pickup truck sales performed exceptionally well, and overall sales showed signs of recovery, especially deliveries to retail customers.

"GM entered the quarter with very lean inventories and our dealers did a great job meeting customer demand, especially for pickups," Kurt McNeil, GM's U.S. vice president, sales operations, said in a release. "Now, we are refilling the pipeline by quickly and safely returning production to pre-pandemic levels."

Jeff Kommor, head of U.S. sales for Fiat Chrysler, said retail sales to consumers have been rebounding since bottoming in April, however fleet sales to governments and businesses have been canceled or delayed.

"This quarter demonstrated the resilience of the U.S. consumer," Kommor said in a release. "Retail sales have been rebounding since April as the reopening of the economy, steady gas prices, and access to low-interest loans spur people to buy." He said the company has built "a strong fleet order book" that will assist its sales in the second half of the year.

Fleet sales were expected to come to a grinding halt for many automakers during the first half of the year as corporate customers cut costs and some struggled to stay afloat. That includes the rental car industry, highlighted by the bankruptcy of Hertz

Most major automakers are expected to report June or second-quarter sales on Wednesday, providing another look at how the coronavirus crippled the auto industry during the first half of the year.

Automakers across the U.S. and other countries had to end vehicle production due to the pandemic. They've also cut or deferred executive and white-collar salaries and withdrawn guidance for the year.

Other automakers reporting June or second-quarter sales include:

  • Nissan reported its sales in the second quarter declined 49.5%.
  • Hyundai's sales in the second quarter fell about 23.7% to 141,722 units compared with a year ago, including a 21.9% slide in June.
  • Volkswagen posted a roughly 29% decline in sales to less than 70,000 vehicles sold during the second quarter.
  • Porsche, a unit of VW, reported its sales for the second quarter fell 19.9% to 12,192 vehicles, helped by a 30.1% increase in its 911 models.
  • Mazda said its second-quarter sales were down 9.6% to 61,199 vehicles sold.