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Car sales under coronavirus already recovering, latest data shows

Sweet deals and incentives are probably helping automakers big time.

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May should be a much better month for automakers.

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There's a slice of good news amid the coronavirus pandemic for automakers, according to new data from JD Power released Wednesday. Car sales have already started to recover, even in places that have seen the biggest impacts of COVID-19.

The data shows car sales likely bottomed out at the end of March when most US states had enacted or announced plans to issue stay-at-home orders. Sales began to stabilize during the first two weeks of April, which separate data also showed prior. It led experts to believe the COVID-19 impact may not be as bad as once feared.

Now, as we begin to close out April, all regional markets are showing positive signs. Many of the improvements are in the southern part of the US where sales already started to approach previrus levels, according to the data. In the Miami area, sales dropped by 34% for the week ending April 12 compared to a 47% drop the week prior. Out west in Arizona, sales are only off previrus levels by 14%.

In two of the nation's coronavirus epicenters, New York state and Detroit, there's also improvement. Sales took a serious dive with an 80% drop in New York and a 98% drop in Detroit for the week ending April 12. As of last week, sales rebounded a bit and were down by 77% and 85%, respectively. Make no mistake, those are horrendous figures, but they're encouraging for the auto industry to see demand is, if anything, slowly returning.

The uptick could have a lot to do with the unprecedented offers automakers started dangling in front of buyers, such as 0% financing for up to 84 months in some cases. Buyers are absolutely taking advantage; JD Power data shows loans with 84-month or longer terms grew by 19%. Despite the deals, buyers also financed nearly $3,000 more than during the month of April compared to March. And it's not older folks going car shopping right now. Buyers older than 55 are, largely, staying home with a 52% drop in activity from the age group compared to previrus levels. Younger buyers aren't exactly flooding the showrooms, but they're more likely to kick the tires on a new car in the coronavirus era.

Looking into the near future, May was supposed to be one of the auto industry's banner months, and it could still be with incredible incentives. Overall, JD Power expects retail sales to fall by 1.2 million vehicles overall for 2020, thanks to the pandemic.

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