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Economic downturn hits automobile sales

Automobile sales in the Mahoning Valley plunged more than 55 percent in April from where they were a year ago, evidence of the vise the novel coronavirus outbreak has had on the industry.

April — the second straight month of falling sales — paints a fuller picture of the downturn felt by the industry, because Ohio’s stay-at-home order wasn’t put into place until mid-March.

New and used automobile sales fell 56.5 percent from April 2019, from 5,281 deliveries to 2,296, according to numbers Thursday from the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association.

The sharp decline came as many dealers closed or remained open with skeleton sales and service crews. It’s also put a dent in sales numbers for the year, which were on pace through February to eclipse the pace set in 2019.

For the first four months, sales are off 18.7 percent compared to the same period in 2019. Through April, there were 15,577 vehicles sold, down from 19,182.

New car sales fell 57.2 percent in April, from 2,761 vehicles to 1,180 a year prior. And used cars sales fell 55 percent, from 2,385 in April 2019 to 1,061 last month.

For the four-month period, new car sales are down 22 percent and used cars, down 15 percent.

Across the 21 northern Ohio counties in the dealers’ association, new vehicle sales were off by more than 36 percent for the month and 10.6 percent for the period ending April 30.

“The current climate has certainly slowed the automotive retail market throughout April,” Louis A. Vitantonio, dealers’ association president, said. “Throughout the month of April and into May we have seen small signs of recovery as businesses reopen and employees are brought back to work in northern Ohio.”

He also noted northern Ohio sales mirror a national trend: sales of trucks and SUVs outnumbered cars for the first time. Dealers in April sold 6,860 new trucks and SUVs and 6,611 cars.

Customer preference, low gasoline prices and incentives, Vitantonio said, pushed the truck / SUV segment out in front.

Dealerships in April in Trumbull County with the most sales were Sims Buick GMC Truck, 98, down from 135 in April 2019; Klaben Ford Lincoln of Warren, 81, down from 116; and Toyota of Warren, 23, down from 153.

The top new vehicle sellers were Sims Buick GMC Truck, 67, down from 84; Klaben Ford Lincoln of Warren, 54, down from 70; and Toyota of Warren, 11, down from 99.

The top used vehicle sellers were Sims Buick GMC Truck, 31, down from 51; Klaben Ford Lincoln of Warren, 27, down from 46; and Toyota of Warren, 12, down from 54.

The top overall seller in the Mahoning Valley in April was Taylor Kia of Boardman with 171 deliveries. That is down 113 for the dealer from April 2019.

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