May 7, 2020 Reading Time: < 1 minute

Sales of light vehicles totaled 8.6 million at an annual rate in April, down sharply from an 11.4 million pace in March (see top chart). The pace of sales in April is the lowest on record since this data series began in 1976 and follows a run of 72 months in the 16 to 18 million range from March 2014 through February 2020. Unit vehicle sales fell significantly below the range as the 2008–9 recession began, hitting a low of just 9.0 million in February 2009. Sales began a slow recovery and returned to the 16 to 18 million range in March 2014 (see top chart).

As of April 2020, light-truck sales totaled 6.6 million at an annual rate, the lowest since June 2011, while cars managed just 1.9 million, the lowest on record going back to 1967. That puts the light-truck share at 77.3 percent, completely dominating the car share of 22.7 percent. The rising share of light-trucks continues a long-term trend (see bottom chart). As recently as March 2013, the split between cars and light-trucks (SUVs and pick-up trucks) was about even, with both segments selling about 7.76 million at an annual rate.

Robert Hughes

Bob Hughes

Robert Hughes joined AIER in 2013 following more than 25 years in economic and financial markets research on Wall Street. Bob was formerly the head of Global Equity Strategy for Brown Brothers Harriman, where he developed equity investment strategy combining top-down macro analysis with bottom-up fundamentals. Prior to BBH, Bob was a Senior Equity Strategist for State Street Global Markets, Senior Economic Strategist with Prudential Equity Group and Senior Economist and Financial Markets Analyst for Citicorp Investment Services. Bob has a MA in economics from Fordham University and a BS in business from Lehigh University.

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