Car sales slowly picking up as Big Three production resumes

Published: May. 20, 2020 at 4:28 PM EDT
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Production at auto plants around the region started back up Monday. But the COVID-19 crisis means a lot of changes on the lines and at car dealers.

Just like dealerships everywhere, business has taken a big hit at Grogan's Towne because of the pandemic. After a rough month in April, sales are improving this month. Owner Denny Amrhein says they're still about half what they would usually be.

He also says because of the lack of production for two months, the inventory of new cars on lots is quickly dwindling.

"By the end of next month, we could possibly be down to just 10 new cars left on the lot, unless they somehow are able to start building them faster," Amrhein said. "I have been in the car business since 1970, and this has been the toughest time I have been through by far. This way surpasses the financial crisis of 2008-2009. At that point you just had a slow down in production, not a complete shut down."

Amrhein expects to sell about 100 new and 100 used cars this month. He says that is about half the usual sales numbers for May.

Bernard Swiecki, with the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said the longer this crisis continues, the more people will shift from buying new cars to buying used vehicles or just keeping what they have.

"We already have examples of plants in Europe and Japan that started back up after the pandemic, only to stop production again because of the lack of demand," said Swiecki.