In a year full of bad news, its months defined by uncertainty and disruption, Bernard Swiecki is seeing the silver linings.
For the North American auto industry — and the U.S. in particular — things are looking up. The numbers, once incomprehensibly dire are more and more encouraging.
"What we are really going for here is not necessarily a return to 2020 looking like 2019," Swiecki, director of the Automotive Communities Partnership at the Center for Automotive Research, said during a webinar CAR hosted Nov. 17. "It is really about one, being the best 2020 it can be; and two, now that we have had this pandemic twist thrown in, how much can we recover?"
Light vehicle sales in the U.S. were close to 17.5 million units last year. Analysts expected 2020 to fall short of those numbers, long before the coronavirus pandemic took hold. Still, the impact of COVID-19 was drastic for the industry overall.
In April, the seasonally adjusted annual rate for the U.S. dropped to 8.5 million vehicles before rebounding to about 14 million in July. By October, the SAAR hit 16.2 million and looks to be holding steady, if not increasing slightly, as the year comes to a close.
"So far this year, we are down about 2.4 million units," Swiecki said.
Some vehicle segments fared better than others. CUVs captured the largest market share this year, accounting for about 40 percent of overall sales. Pickups, meanwhile, account for 20 percent, while SUVs hold right around 8.5 percent of the market share.
"(Seventy) percent of the market is trucks or truck-like," Swiecki said, "which is representative of a substantial shift in consumer preferences."
Sales seemed to have rebounded, especially as production—which fell to nearly zero this spring—has returned to more normal levels, allowing dealers to keep up with demand across the most popular segments.