by Michael Sivak, Sivak Applied Research.
In this study, I examined the relative expenditures on motor vehicles in the United States from March through June 2020—the first four months of the current pandemic. The raw data for the calculations—seasonally adjusted dollar amounts of sales for each month—came from the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
Three analyses were performed. To provide a general context, I first looked at monthly changes in the total retail and food services sales excluding those at motor vehicle dealers, relative to the sales of the same type in February 2020. That was followed by analogous comparisons for the sales at motor vehicle dealers. (Because the population increased by only 0.2% from February to June, no population adjustments were made in these two analyses.) Finally, I calculated the sales at motor vehicle dealers as a percentage of the total sales. The motor vehicle category is for all motor vehicles (including motorcycles and RVs), both new and used. The results are shown in the table below.
|Month||Total retail and food services sales excluding motor vehicle dealers, relative to February 2020||Motor vehicle dealer sales, relative to February 2020||Motor vehicle dealer sales, as percentage of total sales|
The main findings are as follows:
In comparison with February, the drop in the total sales excluding those at motor vehicle dealers was greatest in April (a reduction of 18.3%). The sales virtually recovered by June (a reduction of only 0.6%).
In comparison with February, the drop in the sales at motor vehicle dealers was also greatest in April, but it was more substantial (a reduction of 36.6%). The sales more than recovered by June (an increase of 4.7%).
In February (the last pre-pandemic month), the sales at motor vehicle dealers amounted to 18.5% of the total sales. This percentage dropped to 14.7% in March, followed by a gradual increase to 19.3% in June (a greater percentage than in February).
Michael Sivak is the managing director of Sivak Applied Research and the former director of Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at the University of Michigan.