Hyundai’s U.S. sales fell 13 percent last month as the COVID-19 outbreak continued to undermine showroom traffic and sales, even as more states lifted restrictions on business and personal activity.
The company’s results, an improvement over April’s 39 percent decline, are another sign the market continues to recover. Hyundai’s car deliveries skidded 44 percent to 16,456 while crossover sales, a strength for the brand, rose 12 percent to 41,163.
Hyundai said retail volume rose 5 percent despite the pandemic while fleet deliveries dropped 79 percent, representing just 5 percent of all volume.
Randy Parker, vice president of sales for Hyundai Motor America, credited the “remarkable” rebound in retail sales to dealer initiatives, new digital retail tools and the right customer offers, which included some of the industry’s lowest incentives, according to ALG. (See chart below.)
“We’ve also equipped our dealers with resources to ensure we are taking the necessary precautions to keep vehicles and facilities clean,” Parker said. “Our inventory pipeline is in a good place as Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama has been up and running since May 4. We’re optimistic for the months ahead.”
Overall, U.S. light-vehicle demand slid 33 percent last month, an improvement from the estimated 50 percent decline in April, analysts at Edmunds, ALG and Cox Automotive estimate.
Sales fell at every major automakers last month, analyst say.
Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Subaru, Mazda and Volvo are also expected to report May results later Monday, while the rest of the industry now releases sales quarterly.
With U.S. unemployment rising and consumer confidence taking a sharp dive in May, the industry’s recovery from a bottom in early April is expected to be slow and spotty.
“The key question for the market going forward is whether these modest but steady sales gains will continue into June or does the sales recovery stagnate,” said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive.
J.D. Power said the sales recovery essentially plateaued in the several weeks leading up to Memorial Day and last week cited several coronavirus-related factors behind the market’s stall.
- Many lessees have extended terms of current leases and remain out of the market.
- Older consumers continue to hunker down and are also largely avoiding showrooms.
- Affordability concerns are prompting more consumers to consider used rather than new vehicles.
- Growing inventory shortages, notably light trucks, as idled assembly plants slowly restart after months of shutdowns.
- The absence of significantly higher discounts around the Memorial Day holiday, a key period for industry sales.
“The resumption of business and leisure activities blunted the usual Memorial Day traffic,” said Tyson Jominy, an analyst at J.D. Power.
Lower fleet shipments, resulting from fewer orders from rental car companies as a result of the slump in business and leisure travel, will also be a drag on industry volume for months.
Barclays analyst Brian Johnson said inventory shortages – an estimated 600,000 cars and light trucks in June alone — will continue through August.
“We continue to see significant risks on the supply side with almost inevitable inefficiencies arising from restarting vehicle programs in North America simultaneously” Johnson said in a note Monday.
Johnson said the large pickup segment – the biggest source of profits for the Detroit 3 — is at critical risk of supply shortages, and estimates large pickup inventory fell to 44 days at the end of May from 88 days at the end of May 2019.
The seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of sales is expected to come in at 11.4 million to 11.8 million, according to Edmunds, ALG and Cox Automotive, substantially lower than the 17.4 million rate in May 2019.
ALG estimates average incentives rose to $4,526 last month, an increase of 21 percent from May 2019’s $3,732 level. With the exception of Hyundai, every manufacturer raised incentives last month 10 percent or more, ALG data show. (See chart below.)
With the halting restart to many North American assembly plants, tight supplies are prompting some automakers to dial back on deals or shift tactics.
ALG analyst Eric Lyman said falling inventories of key models, notably light trucks, will allow automakers to dial back on deals but redirect deals from national to regional and local markets based on supply.
“We expect the highly incentivized and in-demand SUVs and trucks to be affected more than other segments,” said Lyman.
- There were 26 selling says last month, the same as May 2019.
- Average transaction prices rose 4.6 percent, or $1,607, to $36,511 in May, from a year ago, but dropped 1.7 percent, or $639, compared with April 2020, ALG said.
“There’s still a long road to recovery ahead, but May auto sales are a really encouraging sign for the industry. The unprecedented deals broadcast by automakers and dealers really did the trick in getting more consumers to reenter the market, social distancing and all.”
— Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell