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Light-truck sales declined less during the current pandemic than car sales

by Michael Sivak, Sivak Applied Research.

This note examines the sales of all new light-duty vehicles (cars and light trucks) in the United States in March, April, and May 2020—the first three months of the current pandemic—and compares them with the sales in February 2020. The raw data were annualized, seasonally adjusted sale values, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The results are shown in the table below.


The main findings are as follows:

  • Total sales declined from 16.750 million in February to 8.726 million in April—a drop of 47.9%—before increasing to 12.213 million in May. (Total sales in January of 16.925 million were similar to those in February.)

  • Light-truck sales were less affected during the pandemic than car sales, and especially so in April and May. For example, light-truck sales decreased by 46.0% from February to April, while car sales decreased by 53.4%.

  • Light-truck sales as a percentage of total sales increased from 74.6% in February to 78.3% in May.

Michael Sivak is the managing director of Sivak Applied Research and the former director of Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at the University of Michigan.


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