US car sales spiraled in Q1 as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rock the economy

In this Jan. 9, 2020, photo pick-up trucks are lined up for sale on the sales lot at Betley Chevrolet dealership in Derry, N.H. On Thursday, Jan. 16, the Commerce Department releases U.S. retail sales data for December. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Associated Press

Pickup trucks are lined up for sale at Betley Chevrolet in Derry, New Hampshire.

  • The coronavirus sent US car sales tumbling in Q1, as shown by first-quarter sales reports released on Wednesday.
  • Compared to Q1 of 2019, Fiat Chrysler's sales fell 10%, Subaru's sales decreased 16.7%, and Nissan's sales plummeted 29.6%.
  • Kia's Q1 sales went up by 1%, however, compared to the first quarter of 2019.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, its effects continue to ripple across nearly every industry - tanking US car sales in the process.

First-quarter sales reports came out Wednesday, and the numbers show a significant drop in US sales for most major automakers. Fiat Chrysler said Q1 sales fell 10%, while General Motors said sales dropped by 7%. Nissan reported a 29.6% decrease. Advertisement

Sales plummeted dramatically in March as people began to stay home en masse amid lockdown orders and concerns of contracting the virus. Volkswagen of America, for example, said that its March sales fell 42%, while Subaru of America's dropped by 47%.

Monthly figures are not available for all automakers, however, as an increasing number of companies have moved to quarterly reporting - a practice that smooths over month-to-month sales volatility. The sharp decline in sales is the second major challenge automakers are grappling with in the midst of the global pandemic, as the industry has effectively come to a halt with production shutdowns.

Here's how each automaker fared during the first three months of 2020, as the novel coronavirus spread around the globe:
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Porsche: -20.2%

Porsche: -20.2%

Porsche sold 11,994 vehicles in the US in from January through March 2020, more than one-fifth fewer cars than it sold during the same period last year.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles: -10%

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles: -10%

Fiat Chrysler US reported a 10% decrease in first-quarter sales compared to the same period in 2019. The company sold 446,768 vehicles in Q1 of 2020, while it sold 498,425 units during the first quarter of 2019.

Despite the overall slump, sales of Ram pickup trucks rose by 7%, while sales of the Chrysler Pacifica minivan increased by 5%.

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Hyundai: -11%

Hyundai: -11%

Hyundai Motor America reported an 11% drop in Q1 sales compared to the same period last year. In March, when the pandemic really began to hit the US hard, the automaker sold 35,118 units — 43% fewer than it sold in March 2019.

Mazda: -4.5%

Mazda: -4.5%

Mazda North America reported year-to-date sales of 67,670 units, down only 4.5% from last year's Q1 sales.

In March, the company sold 15,664 vehicles, a 41.8% decrease compared to the same month last year.

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Nissan: -29.6%

Nissan: -29.6%

US sales fell nearly 30% for Nissan and its Infiniti brand, as it reported sales totaling 257,606 vehicles in Q1 of 2020. That's more than 100,000 fewer vehicles than it sold during the same three months in 2019.

Mitsubishi: -15.5%

Mitsubishi: -15.5%

Mitsubishi Motors North America's sales plummeted 52% last month compared to March 2019.

Year-to-date sales amount to 35,563 vehicles, down 15.5% from the same time last year.

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General Motors: -7%

General Motors: -7%

General Motors said it delivered 618,335 vehicles from January through March 2020, a 7% decrease compared to the same timeframe last year.

Each of GM's four brands saw a drop in sales. Buick had the most dramatic year-over-year slump, selling 34.7% fewer cars than it did in Q1 of 2019.

Kia: +1%

Kia: +1%

Kia Motors America said it sold 137,945 vehicles during the first quarter of 2020, up slightly from last year's 136,596. Q1 figures were bolstered by strong sales of the company's SUVs, including the Telluride, Sportage, and its new Seltos.

March sales, however, were down by roughly 19%.

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Volkswagen: -13%

Volkswagen: -13%

Volkswagen of America said March sales were down by 42%, while Q1 figures fell 13%. In the first quarter of this year, VW sold a total of 75,075 cars and SUVs in the US — close to 11,000 fewer vehicles than it sold in Q1 of 2019.

Subaru: -16.7%

Subaru: -16.7%

Last month, Subaru of America sold 47% fewer vehicles to US customers than it did in March 2019. First-quarter sales totaled 130,591, amounting to a 16.7% drop compared to Q1 of last year.

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Toyota: -8.8%

Toyota: -8.8%

Toyota Motor North America reported a 36.9% drop in sales for March, and an 8.8% decrease for the first quarter.

Toyota-division sales were down 35.3% in March, while Lexus sales dropped 46.7% compared to March 2019.