Local auto sales rebound in May after April’s steep drop

Sales of new cars and trucks at local franchised dealers rebounded in May from a dismal April.

Dealers reported selling 4,664 new units in May, nearly triple the 1,572 sold in April, according to the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association. The May total was still down 15% from a year ago.

Still, the numbers show that auto sales are returning to a more normal level after the state’s Covid-19 restrictions caused sales to slow to a relative trickle in April. Dealers had expected May’s numbers to improve from April’s, as the state began lifting restrictions on their ability to sell vehicles.

Neither year’s figures include sales heavyweight Chevrolet, which does not publicly disclose its local sales numbers.

The state since March has gradually relaxed restrictions on how dealers could run their operations. At first, dealers could only operate their service departments, which were deemed essential operations. Then, in late March, dealers were permitted to resume sales, but only by phone or online. Another change came in early May, when dealers could again have customers in showrooms, but only by appointment.

The combination of the restrictions and the Covid-19-related business shutdowns showed in the April results. New vehicle sales at franchised dealers fell 67% in April from a year earlier, according to the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association.

Under Covid-19 restrictions, customers haven’t been able to just stroll into a showroom, browse and chat with a salesperson. Customers have had to make appointments to visit, and that goes for test drives, too. The state’s phase two guidelines, which took effect last week, continue to encourage customers to shop by appointment.

Ford’s nine area dealers reported selling 820 new units in May, compared to just 244 in April.

The region’s May sales total was the second best for any month this year, according to the NFADA.

Posted by The Buffalo News

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