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Tuesday, 02 June 2020 18:10

Consumer Sentiment in Auto Industry Improves in May, But Still Less than Optimistic

Written by Jason Unrau, CBT Automotive Network


The second half of the month of May demonstrated the auto industry is moving toward a smooth recovery, according to the Auto Market Weekly Summary from Cox Automotive.

The number of customers who believe it’s a good time to buy a car has bounced back to nearly pre-COVID levels, and the number of people shopping for a car or planning to purchase is nearly back on track.


Auto retail recovery is once again proving it’s one of the foundations of the U.S economy.


Although consumer spending was down more than 13% in April, vehicle sales are not following the same downward trend. New vehicle sales have quickly accelerated toward parity with the previous year and are estimated to be down just 28% from the same time frame last year. Comparatively, April was down 47% year over year.


Used vehicle sales are the dark horse in the industry. Catching many off-guard, used car sales are actually up 6% from May 2019. That’s despite the aggressive new car incentives that averaged nearly $4,300 per new car. It could lead one to infer consumers are still hesitant to make large purchases and are opting to take a cost-effective approach.


Although used cars are selling like hotcakes, even as the pandemic restricts dealership activity, dealers could soon face a challenge in supply.


Wholesale auctions are running in limited capacities and there’s a backlog of vehicles to go through the block. With used cars selling better than expected, inventory levels at dealerships could soon dwindle. That is, unless they can procure enough inventory from a combination of trade-ins and at the auction.


That said, the Manheim Used Vehicle Index was at its lowest level in three years in April, declining 11.4%. For vehicles dealers purchased at the auction, they paid less. And with demand high, there’s excellent opportunity for profitability in the used car market, especially now.


The resurgence in car sales could very well be due to the government funds being handed out to Americans. In addition to the $1,200 stimulus checks sent out, many qualify for additional subsidies and unemployment benefits. It pushed personal income levels up more than 10%, while wages and salaries fell 8%.

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