April Will Be The Worst Month On Record For Auto Sales

In a world breaking economic records left and right, we can add one more: April is set to be the worst month ever for auto sales.

According to the car shopping experts at Edmunds, April will be a record down month for the auto industry - for obvious reasons - forecasting that just 633,260 new cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. for an estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 7.7 million. This reflects a 52.5% decrease in sales from April 2019, and a 36.6% decrease from March 2020.

Edmunds analysts note that this would be the lowest-volume sales month on record; the second worst month for sales in the past 30 years was January of 2009, when 655,000 vehicles were sold.

"April auto sales took the biggest hit we've seen in decades," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of insights. "These bleak figures aren't just because consumers are holding back on their purchases — fleet sales are seeing an even more dramatic drop as daily rental business has dried up. Like many other industries, the entire automotive sector is struggling as the coronavirus crisis continues to cripple the economy."

Edmunds experts note that plans for easing shelter-in-place orders across the country in May could open up opportunities for automakers and dealers to capture some deferred demand, but there is still economic uncertainty ahead.

"April is likely the bottom for auto sales, so hopefully there's only room for improvement from here," said Caldwell. "But with employment and consumer confidence at new lows, the question remains: Will people be in the position to purchase new cars? Although automakers are doing their part by offering landmark incentives, those might not be enough if consumers cannot recover financially from this crisis."

Edmunds estimates that retail SAAR will come in at 6.7 million vehicles in April 2020, with fleet transactions accounting for 13.0% of total sales.