Colorado car and truck buyers registered nearly 30% fewer new vehicles in March and April than they did during the same two months in 2019, according to the latest Colorado Auto Outlook from the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.
Sedans suffered the biggest drop, a 45.2% decline, while light trucks, which include SUVs, vans and pickups, dropped 25.6%. Total new vehicle registrations fell to 25,628 in March and April compared to 36,491 during the same period in 2019.
“We have never been through this whole pandemic thing,” said Tim Jackson, president and CEO of CADA, which publishes the Outlook. “The closest real-life scenario is 2008 and 2009.”
During the Great Recession, sales dropped by half, but that decline happened across several months. Sales this year “fell hard and fell fast,” Jackson said.
Although maintenance bays remained open, auto showrooms weren’t considered an essential service and closed. Customers, though, could still buy vehicles online for home delivery.
Registrations lag actual sales by a couple of months, the time buyers have before their temporary tags run out. With DMV offices closed, the state granted a reprieve on the requirement to register a new vehicle, which could be distorting the count. At the same time, March registrations captured sales that happened in January and February.
For the first four months of the year, auto registrations are down 12% compared to the same period last year, with light-truck registrations down 6.8% and car registrations down 30.2%. For April only, total registrations are down 45%.
Tesla suffered the biggest drop in registrations in March and April compared to last year at 57%, followed by Chrysler at 54.4%. Other brands that saw registrations cut in half included Acura, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. The brands with some of the smallest declines included Kia, down 3.1%; Lincoln, down 6.2%; Ram, down 17.9%, and Hyundai, down 20.3%.
Although the registration backlog should sort itself out in the months ahead, job losses and the hit to incomes that consumers are taking could trigger another wave of reduced purchases. For most consumers, buying a vehicle is the second largest purchase they will make after a home, and vehicle purchases generate a major source of sales tax revenues for local governments.
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