June 25, 2020 / 4:05 PM / 7 days ago

U.S. new-car sales in June seen down as much as 30%: research firms

DETROIT (Reuters) - While U.S. new-vehicle sales in June are expected to decline as much as 30%, research firms on Thursday maintained that retail demand has held up relatively well during the coronavirus outbreak and the question now is whether the industry can rebuild inventories fast enough as demand rebounds.

FILE PHOTO: Jerry Bill, general manager of Stew Hansen Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, walks past a line of Ram trucks that he fears will be in very short supply by June if consumer demand remains strong, in Urbandale, Iowa, U.S. May 14, 2020. Picture taken May 14, 2020. REUTERS/Nick Carey/File Photo

“The fact that retail sales - not fleet - are what kept the market propped up speaks volumes to the resilience of the American consumer,” Edmunds’ executive director of insights Jessica Caldwell said in a statement.

The shutdown of plants and auto dealers hit the U.S. auto sector hard in April and May, but assembly plants reopened starting May 18 and have since boosted production while sales have rebounded as states reopen economies.

TrueCar subsidiary ALG expects sales of new cars and trucks to drop 24%, with the month finishing with a annual sales rate of 13 million units, down from 17.2 million last year. Excluding fleet sales, retail deliveries will decline 15%, but rise 1.5% from May.

With inventories lower, availability of some vehicles, especially pickup trucks made by General Motors Co(GM.N), Ford Motor Co(F.N) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV(FCHA.MI)(FCAU.N), could suffer, analysts said.

Tesla Inc’s (TSLA.O) build-to-order model means the electric carmaker will see a big decline in June sales, analysts said.

Edmunds expects June sales to drop 29% from last year but only 3.6% from May. It expects an annual sales rate of 12.8 million vehicles.

As inventories dwindle and automakers pull back on incentives, the industry needs to prepare for uncertainties ahead, Caldwell said.

Cox Automotive sees June sales dropping 30% with an annual sales rate of 12.6 million units as supply constraints may limit market gains, especially among pickups. For the full year, Cox expects new-car sales of 12.9 million.

“The worst of the crisis is probably behind us,” Cox senior economist Charlie Chesbrough said on a conference call.

Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by David Gregorio

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