Quarterly sales of new cars in California down almost 50%

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Rosendo Nevarez makes the rounds at John Hine Mazda in Mission Valley on May 26, cleaning surfaces to maintain hygiene standards during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The numbers are in and the economic consequences wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic landed a body blow to new car sales in California, with dealers reporting a drop of 48.9 percent in the second quarter of this year compared to the same three-month period of 2019. Year-to-date vehicle sales are off 26.9 percent.

The statistics reflect the full effect of safety and social distancing protocols that kicked in by mid-March and dramatically curtailed or even temporarily shuttered some showrooms across the state.

“Obviously, with the fuller impact of the pandemic, it was very clear sales were going to drop at the end of the first quarter, beginning of the second quarter,” said Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association. “The good news is they didn’t drop nearly as far as we initially feared. And while a nearly 27 percent drop is not ideal, it’s a lot better than it could have been.”

Dealerships have reported signs the market is regaining some footing as the economy tries to crawl back to some sense of normalcy. Economists with the new car dealers association predict new vehicle registrations in California will finish the year 22 percent lower than in 2019, falling from 2.09 million units to 1.63 million. They project the number to rise to 1.81 million in 2021.

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