With no handy playbook, no precedents for the toxic economic fallout from COVID-19, the only thing predictable about auto sales is now unpredictability. And with viral spikes forcing fresh public restrictions — including in California, the nation’s largest auto market — any automotive recovery seems likely to follow the same topsy-turvy course.
Analysts say the worst may be over. But they can’t be sure. The pandemic drove auto sales to a sickly, 30-year-low in April, as Americans bought just 633,000 cars — down 53% from April 2019, and worse than any sales month of the Great Recession in 2009.
June brought a few rays of hope. But June’s annualized selling rate of 12.9 million units was still a stark reminder of the booming 17.2-million pace of the previous June. Second-quarter sales at General Motors, Ford and FiatChrysler fell 30% or more. Tesla’s mere 5% drop —and a stock