U.S. auto sales soar despite chip shortages, rebounding from pandemic lows

It's easy to beat COVID lockdown numbers, as it turns out

April was a strong comeback month for U.S. auto sales, with OEMs universally reporting massive upswings in sales compared to the pandemic lows of a year ago. While impressive, these figures shouldn't be too surprising, as many dealers struggled to move volume as lockdowns and other restrictions were imposed as the pandemic escalated last year. For most OEMs, this is a correction to the norm, rather than any kind of measurable improvement in sales volumes.

April was particularly good news by itself, as some brands doubled last year's single-month sales figures. Acura more than tripled its sales compared to the same month last year, for example. Subaru managed to not only handily beat its 2020 numbers, but record its best April ever, moving 61,389 cars last month. The figures for the full year are far more subdued, but nonetheless impressive even in context. 

Full-year figures are robust as well, though not all manufacturers are yet reporting:

  • Ford got a healthy 64% bump in April, propelling it to a 13% increase so far year-to-date in 2021, indicating that production issues are still plaguing the Blue Oval.
  • Honda says it is up more than 40% so far over 2020, with its Acura division checking in with more than 54,000 units sold so far in 2021. 
  • Hyundai is up more than 48% so far for the year, faring better than sister brand Kia so far, which is up just 35%. 
  • Toyota is up more than 45% so far for the year, with Lexus following Acura's lead in outpacing its core brand. 
  • Subaru's impressive April bely a somewhat mixed bag so far in 2021, but the brand remains up nearly 38% compared to last year. 
  • Mazda is also up more than 45% so far in 2021, and managed to sell more than 30,000 units in April alone. 
  • Volvo's numbers were on the robust side as well, and the company is now up more than 63% compared to to 2021.

At this pace, 2021 would be shaping up to be a healthy year for the industry as a whole if it weren't for the ongoing automotive silicon shortage. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC), one of the world's largest producers of microchips, says it hopes to meet minimum requirements for the automotive sector early in the third quarter of this year, but empty dealer lots across the country point to a deepening crisis that will have trickle-down impacts on both new- and used-car values potentially into 2022. 

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