Heard on All Things Considered

Detroit Automakers Report New Vehicle Sales Down in 2020, Despite Late Momentum

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Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

Due to the impact of COVID-19 on assembly lines, car companies dealt with inventory issues for much of the year.

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Detroit’s automakers had trouble moving new vehicles in 2020. General Motors says its domestic sales were down about 12% on the year, while Fiat Chrysler’s dropped more than 17% and Ford’s fell nearly 16%.

Both Ford and General Motors pointed to inventory issues as a factor in the low numbers, with COVID-related measures slowing assembly lines. Fiat Chrysler says the lack of business travel had a major impact on its sales generated by fleet car services.

Michelle Krebs is an automotive analyst for Autotrader. She says all three Detroit manufacturers made up ground late in the year.

At the lowest points, we saw sales down by nearly 25%,” says Krebs. “So I think it’s remarkable that the industry has made such a comeback.”

Ford and Fiat Chrysler’s domestic sales fell by less than 10% in the fourth quarter. General Motors says it returned to pre-pandemic numbers for the first time in October through December, with a 5% gain in sales over the same period in 2019.

Krebs says about 14.5 million vehicles rolled off new car lots in the US last year, about 2.5 million fewer units than were moved a year prior.

Click on the player above to hear automotive analyst Michelle Krebs discuss U.S. automotive sales.

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Alex McLenon, Associate Producer

Alex McLenon is an Associate Reporter/Producer with 101.9 WDET. McLenon is a graduate of Wayne State University, where he studied Media Arts & Production and Broadcast Journalism.

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