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May 2020 Sales Results Show Auto Market’s Recovery Is Still on Track

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Article Highlights

  1. Auto sales in May finished at 1,110,609, down 30.2% from May 2019, according to an estimate from Cox Automotive and Kelley Blue Book.
  2. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of sales in May was 12.2 million, down from 17.4 million in May 2019.
  3. Total year-to-date sales in the U.S. through the end of May 2020 stood at 5.32 million vehicles, down approximately 23% versus the same period last year.

Auto sales in May finished at 1,110,609, according to an estimate from Cox Automotive and Kelley Blue Book. The total is down 30.2% from May 2019, but an increase of 57% from April 2020. The sales results last month came in slightly higher than the Cox Automotive forecast, which called for sales to be off approximately 33% from year-ago levels. 

The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of sales in May was 12.2 million, down from 17.4 million in May 2019. 

May 2020 was the worst May since the Great Recession, but the result was another step forward in the industry’s recovery from the economic struggles caused by COVID-19. The million-plus sales in May demonstrate that as markets reopen and dealerships learn to manage sales while following social-distancing rules, demand will return.

Still, total year-to-date sales in the U.S. through the end of May 2020 stood at 5.32 million vehicles, down approximately 23% versus the same period last year. Even if sales move back to normal in the second half of the year – an unlikely scenario considering our current economic conditions – sales in 2020 still finish down double-digits versus 2019. 

In addition to high unemployment and low consumer confidence, available inventory will likely become an issue holding back auto sales this summer. At the start of June, the available number of new vehicles for sale in the U.S. stood at 2.7 million, according to a Cox Automotive analysis of vAuto data. That is the lowest inventory volume in the past 18 months. And even though vehicle assembly plants are beginning to reopen across North America, full inventory availability is likely still months away. 

If you would like to speak with one of the expert analysts from Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book or any member of the Cox Automotive Industry Insights team, please contact us.

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