Q1 car sales plummet in the US due to coronavirus outbreak

Even with good sales in January and February, March and the widespread COVID-19 quarantine was brutal to the industry.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
6 min read
Car dealer

April may be another tough month for automakers.

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Analysts expected it, but we finally have hard numbers to show a deep decline in automotive sales in the first quarter of 2020. While things hummed along through January, and mostly February, any positives quickly met the eraser in March as stay-at-home orders and shutdowns swept over the US in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Below, you'll find sales results for every automaker reporting them for Q1. We'll continue to update this story as automakers release their results, and do note, there were two fewer selling days in Q1 this year compared to 2019. For those looking for ways to safely pursue car buying amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we have a guide to every automaker offering home delivery.


Honda's luxury brand posted a sales decline of 22% in Q1. The Honda brand itself saw a similar sales decrease, included below. Just looking at March revealed a very tough scenario; sales sank 51% during the month.


Sales of Audi vehicles dipped 14% in Q1 despite massive gains for the brand's SUV lineup. The redone Q3 posted a sales gain of 1,296%.


The German brand said its sales dropped 15% in Q1, thanks to COVID-19 related conditions. Showrooms remain closed across the US with more stay-at-home orders issued.

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Sales of all FCA's brands combined resulted in a 10% decline year over year. The automaker sold a total of 446,768 vehicles between Jan. 1 and March 31, compared to 498,425 vehicles during the same period last year. The automaker noted "strong momentum" in January and February, but March dashed any positive gains.

Chrysler sales slipped 5%, and even Jeep wasn't immune to the slowdown. The crown jewel of FCA posted a 14% drop in sales. Dodge was down, too, with a 20% decline. Fiat saw a steep dive at 49% (not as much related to the COVID-19 outbreak), while Alfa Romeo sales fell 14%.

It wasn't all bad news, though. Ram sales grew 3% overall, and Ram trucks, specifically, saw sales rise 7%. Chrysler Pacifica sales also grew 5%.


The Blue Oval posted a sales decline of 13% year over year in its Q1 sales report. Like every automaker on this list, the COVID-19 pandemic put a beating on sales during the month of March. A few sparks of life emerged in the report, though. The Ford Mustang posted a 7% increase in sales and the Ranger flexed its midsize pickup muscles to post a 123% sales increase compared to Q1 last year. That's also due to the fact the Ranger had just started flowing into dealers, but it's undeniably a good figure.

General Motors

GM's four brands posted a total decline of 7% in Q1. Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac each posted sales declines as March turned into a reckoning month for automakers. Chevy fared best with a sales decline of 3.8%, while Buick posted a larger decline of 34%. GMC sales dropped 5% and Cadillac sales fell 15.8%. Total vehicle sales were 618,335 in Q1 2020 compared to 665,840 the same time last year.

A few bright spots are also present for GM. Chevy Silverado sales jumped 33% and the GMC Sierra saw posted a gain of 27% year over year. As the Chevy Blazer also flowed into dealers, sales increased 632% year over year, though availability was limited at this time last year.


Hyundai Motor's luxury division walked away from Q1 with a 6% sales decline. The only vehicle to post a gain was the G90, which saw sales rise by 40% in Q1 year over year. Genesis also follows Hyundai in offering the Assurance Job Loss Protection Program for new customers, which covers up to six car payments if the buyer loses their job.


The Japanese automaker saw sales plummet 19% in Q1 after a brutal March. In the month alone, sales fell 48%. Its upmarket Acura division didn't fare much better.


At Hyundai, the South Korean brand posted a Q1 sales decline of 11%. March told a more drastic picture with a 43% decline in sales. The brand noted sales actually increased in January and February, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed pause on any momentum. Sales, in total, dropped to 130,875 vehicles from 147,585 vehicles this time last year.

To help drum up some consumer confidence, Hyundai reinstalled its Assurance Job Loss Protection Program for new customers. Those who purchase a new Hyundai will receive up to six payments on the brand in the event the customer loses their job.


Nissan's luxury brand posted a sales decline of 25%, though its QX50 posted its best sales ever in January and February. Sales of the model rose 16% in Q1, though every other model posted a sales decline.


Kia just barely squeaked by with minor sales increase for Q1, due to some pretty stellar months in January and February. For Q1, sales increased by 1%. That's despite a 19% decrease during the month of March year over year. This time last year, Kia moved 136,596 vehicles, but this year, 137,945 cars moved from dealership to driveway.

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Lo and behold, Ford's upscale mark posted a sales increase in Q1. Sales jumped by 2.3%, thanks to the new Aviator and Corsair SUVs. In fact, the increase is largely thanks to SUVs, which posted a 6% increase year over year. The Continental also showed a 15% sales increase, but keep in mind, that includes fleet and retail sales.


Toyota's upmarket division posted a sales drop of 16% as buyers stay home and away from dealerships. Not a single model from the Lexus lineup posted a sales gain year over year.


The Japanese automaker does not report sales results quarterly, and in its monthly report, March sales year over year dropped 42%. Every model posted deep declines, save for the CX-30 -- a new vehicle in Mazda's lineup. The latest crossover found 2,242 homes in March, which is far more than the somewhat comparable CX-3.


The brand best known for small cars posted a sales drop of 35%. It followed in the footsteps of parent company, BMW, which saw sales decline 15% in the first quarter.


Like Mazda, Mitsubishi issues monthly sales reports -- not quarterly. Still, March was not kind to the small Japanese automaker. Sales dropped 52% year over year with just 9,394 cars sold last month. In March 2019, the automaker moved 19,599 cars.

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The automaker, which has struggled in recent months before the COVID-19 pandemic, posted a company-wide sales decline of 30%. The only models to post a gain were the Murano SUV, which saw sales increase by 34%, and the Kicks, up 11%.


The German sports car maker said sales dropped 20% in Q1 this year. It's a tough time as Porsche launched its first electric car, the Taycan, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to wreak havoc on the traditional car buying process. The brand said it sold 221 Taycans in Q1.


The Japanese automaker joined every other brand on this list and posted a sales decline for Q1. It's a little more bitter for Subaru since this quarter effectively ended its 11 years of consecutive sales records. Sales declined 17% with every model sold posting a drop year over year. Just looking at March year over year paints a bleaker picture; sales dropped a whopping 47%.

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Even Toyota isn't immune to the COVID-19 pandemic. The sales behemoth posted an 8% sales decrease in Q1 this year. Sales in March year over year dropped 35%. If there's some good news, Toyota's hybrids are really catching on. The brand reported hybrid sales increased 80% in the first quarter. The RAV4 Hybrid and Corolla Hybrid led the charge. Even just in March, hybrid sales rose 9%. RAV4 sales, overall, increased 16%.


The Volkswagen brand followed the industry trend and posted a 13% sales drop in Q1 and sold about 10,000 fewer vehicles than this time last year. Two rather odd bright spots emerged, however. Golf R sales skyrocketed 448%. That's not a typo. Golf SportWagen sales also rose 36%. VW killed the SportWagen at the end of last year, so it may be last-minute buyers getting their wagon fix.


The Swedish luxury brand posted a sales drop of 12% in Q1 this year. The XC60 remained the automaker's top-selling model, followed by the XC40. SUVs continue to be in the driver's seat; 68% of all Volvos sold in Q1 were, in fact, SUVs.

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First published April 1.