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On the radar: Motor vehicle sales plunged to 11.4 million in March, weakest since June 2010

The pace of light motor vehicle sales fell to 11.4 million units (SAAR) in March after 16.7 million in February. It was the slowest since 11.4 million in June of 2010. Sales of passenger cars were down to 2.862 million units after 4.239 million in February while light truck sales were down to 8.510 million units after 12.498 million.

Between social distancing that kept shoppers out of showrooms and massive job losses that put buying a motor vehicle out of reach, it was one of the worst months since the start of the long recovery.

The proportion of sales of passenger cars to light trucks — which includes SUVs, minivans, and crossovers — remained at an historical high of 75% in favor light trucks. In addition to consumers’ decided preference for the category of vehicles, low gasoline prices make cost of ownership more affordable.

Sales of domestically produced vehicles — from the US, Canada, and Mexico — was 9.1 million units while foreign-built vehicles were at 2.3 million units. Some of this may be due to delays in getting new vehicles into the US related to disruptions along the supply chain related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Purchases of heavy trucks in March fell to 291,000 units from 453,000 in February and was the fewest since 290,000 in April 2011. In a highly uncertain situation, businesses are not making capital investments unless necessary.

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