With auto sales infected by the coronavirus in March, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported a 10% decline in its first-quarter sales after a healthy January and February.
Wednesday's quarterly auto sales reports from automakers are the first since the U.S. was hit by the coronavirus crisis which has closed auto plants and showrooms.
Hyundai and Porsche also saw sales decelerate, with the Korean manufacturer's sales down 43% in March alone.
For Fiat Chrysler, trucks and minivans were a bright spot. Ram pickup sales rose 7% to 128,805 vehicles while sales of the family-friendly Chrysler Pacifica climbed 5%. Jeep's all-new Gladiator pickup continued to impress with its third consecutive quarter of 15,000-plus sales.
But the industry is bracing for difficult months ahead. After a record five years of annual sales over 17 million units in the U.S., sales were expected to slow in 2020, according to J.D. Power forecasts, to a still healthy 16.8 million units. Sales at the start of the year were promising even as automakers put more money on the hood to keep customers coming.
But with automakers poised for the spring selling season in March, COVID-19 has changed the landscape.
Some 70% of the country's population is operating under state shelter-at-home orders including major markets like California and New York. As of Monday, at least 35 states had issued executive orders limiting non-essential business activity affecting dealerships.
Including its abysmal March results, Hyundai reported an 11% drop in the first quarter. Porsche first-quarter sales were off by 20.2% from a year ago after a record 2019.
The Michigan Automobile Dealers Association has advised its members that automotive sales operations remain closed under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's business guidelines. Even online sales have been suspended until April 14. Only service, parts and body-shop operations are allowed to stay open.
Elsewhere, dealers are offering no-interest loans and 84-month lease terms in order to try and keep consumer engaged.
In California, the nation's largest auto market, the California New Car Dealers Association has advised all 1,400 showrooms to comply with Gov. Gavin Newsom's shutdown order. Even home-team Tesla was forced to shut down production and showroom deliveries of its electric cars.