Here is a quick recap of the news from the last week in July: 

  • Wholesale prices, fueled by shortages of new and used inventory in addition to auctions’ throughput limitations, continued their ascent at record rates last week. 
  • Retail listing prices showed a much slower increase but reached pre-COVID-19 levels.  
  • July finished strong with overall wholesale prices up by 7.0% for the month as the market faced continued supply shortages of both used and new inventory.  
  • Black Book’s recently released July Seasonally Adjusted Retention Index showed a record month–over-month increase of 9.5%. 
  • Wholesale volume had a slight dip in the last few weeks as used inventory is limited and many dealers found alternative ways of acquiring inventory. 
  • Used retail listing volume continues to be significantly lower compared to last year due to two factors: overall used inventory is lower and many units in good condition are sold before they even get listed online. 
  • Fitch Ratings released an in-depth analysis of Hertz’s settlement plan that includes the reduction of the fleet by at least 180k vehicles between June and December (a number of these units were already sold in the last two months).  
  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis released an advanced estimate on GDP in the second quarter last week – real GDP decreased at a record annual rate of 32.9%. 
  • The University of Michigan published their Consumer Confidence Index for July that showed a drop to levels similar to April’s numbers. 
  • The Federal Reserve announced on Wednesday that they will not change near-zero key interest rates, helping to keep lending rates low. 
  • Weekly initial unemployment claims continued to climb as more Southern states are experiencing a surge in the number of new cases and deaths from COVID-19.  
  • Business travel is expected to remain low for the foreseeable future, according to projections in Delta Airline’s second quarter earnings call. This will hamper recovery in many segments, including the car rental business, which is concentrated at airports around the country. 
  • Extended federal unemployment benefits expired on July 31st.  Leaders of both political parties are now negotiating a second package, but without substantial federal stimulus, demand for used vehicles is expected to deteriorate.  

Last Week’s Highlights from the Wholesale Market 

Volume-weighted, overall car and truck segments both showed gains for the tenth week in a row, increasing 1.01% overall this week (compared to 1.46% the prior week). As for specifics, the overall car segments increased by 0.96% (compared to 1.71% the prior week) and the overall truck and SUV segments increased again this past week at 1.04% (compared to 1.31% the prior week).  

The graph below shows week-over-week depreciation rates for the entire market, including Cars and Trucks / SUVs / Vans for the last several months. We have now experienced ten weeks of overall market rebounding with consistent week-over-week increases in almost all segments. 

News from the Retail World (Used and New) 

  • New car deliveries are beginning to increase for dealers, but vehicles don’t stay on the lot for long, with many preselling prior to arrival. 
  • Used inventory levels also remain low, with days’ supply hovering around the 30-day mark.  
  • COVID-19 related manufacturing delays continue to cause production slowdowns.  
  • Honda repositioned white collar office workers to work on the assembly line to keep plants operating in an attempt to meet consumer demand for their vehicles.  
  • General Motors reversed their decision to close the third shift at their Wentzville, MO plant.  

What Comes Next? 

We expect a large, incremental influx of used inventory to hit the marketplace over the next six months, coming from prolonged lease return delays and downsizing of rental fleets. In addition, lenders expect a significant increase in delinquencies and repossessions over the upcoming months as the economy continues to feel the effects of high unemployment. With much weaker retail demand and projected oversupply of used inventory, we forecast a significant drop in wholesale prices this fall, relative to the heights seen in recent weeks. 

Longer Term View 

Although the economic effects of the pandemic will continue to be felt as far out as three years from now (e.g. according to the recent CBO economic outlook report, the unemployment rate will not return to pre-COVID levels for at least a decade), we still project that wholesale vehicle values will return to the pre-COVID-19 baseline by 2023. Used supply will decline due to cuts in retail and fleet sales throughout 2020 and into 2021.

Economic Conditions 

Job Market 

Since the beginning of April, weekly initial unemployment claims remained at record levels. Last week, the Labor Department reported that the US added 1.43 million new jobless claims – the  second week in a row of increased numbers (+12,000 from the prior week ). Since March, we have seen 19 consecutive weeks of record level layoffs and furloughs. The graph below compares weekly initial unemployment claims from the current recession against the Great Recession of 2007 – 2009. The severity and speed of job losses is unprecedented. The horizontal (x) axis is an offset (in months) from the beginning of the recession. 

In the early stages of the crisis, the US unemployment rate in April skyrocketed to 14.7%, the highest monthly rate since the Great Depression. The May unemployment level decreased to 13.3% due to the success of the Federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and other stimulus measures enacted in part by the Federal Reserve and Government. As the country and economy continued to reopen during the early part of June, the monthly unemployment numbers eased further to 11.1%. The Labor Bureau also noted in its reports that there was a classification error in its surveys, and the real unemployment numbers were actually higher for each month since March, as illustrated below. 

There is a concern that without further federal stimulus, these gains will be temporary and employment numbers may deteriorate, as the PPP expired on June 30th. According to a recently released CBO report, “the unemployment rate is projected to peak at over 14 percent in the third quarter of this year” before declining in the fourth quarter. 

This recession is very different and unprecedented in the labor market – reflecting an almost instantaneous jump in unemployment with projected fast growth within a year. The graph below compares unemployment rates for the last several major recessions. The horizontal (x) axis is an offset (in months) from the beginning of the recession. 

Although we have seen a reduction in unemployment, the initial economic shock and job losses have created a deep hole for us to dig ourselves out of. Between February and the end of June, the nation lost close to 14.7 million jobs. 

Consumer Confidence 

With a weakening of the economy and the increase of new COVID-19 cases across the South (which is now expanding to other hot spots across the country), consumer confidence dropped back to the lows of April. The University of Michigan’s Monthly Consumer Sentiment Index for July, released last week, decreased to 72.5 points. The report also predicts a further weakening in consumer confidence: “unfortunately, declines are more likely in the months ahead as the coronavirus spreads and causes continued economic harm, social disruptions, and permanent scarring.”  

Not surprisingly, consumer confidence has been on a bit of a rollercoaster the last five months. At the beginning of the year it was strong – the University of Michigan’s Monthly Consumer Sentiment Index in February was 101 points. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across US, the index dropped to 71.8 points in April and increased slightly to 72.3 points in May. During recent testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, he noted that during the months of April and May, “stimulus checks and unemployment benefits are supporting household incomes and spending.” With these one-time stimulus payments and extended unemployment benefits helping the economy, the index for June increased further to 78.1. The gains, however, were not uniform across the country. With a significant reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases, the Northeast region led the way with a record 19.1 point month-over-month jump, while the Southern region rose just 0.5 points due to the dangerous increase in numbers of new infections and fear of further shutdowns.  

GDP 

The Bureau of Economic Analysis published an advanced estimate on GDP in the second quarter – real GDP decreased at an annual rate of 32.9%. This was the highest drop in GDP ever recorded.  

Consensus states that the economy will start to grow in the third quarter compared to the previous one. Current “nowcast” from GDPNow model [from the Federal Reserve] estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the third quarter of 2020 was 11.9% on July 31st. This is a first estimate view of the third quarter. 

Delinquencies in Automotive Lending 

The number of accounts in ‘hardship’ jumped substantially in April and kept increasing through June across all risk groups, according to the Monthly Industry Snapshot by TransUnion. Currently, more than 7% of all accounts are in hardship – this is almost a 1,700% increase over last year. The increases are across all risk tiers. As deferrals expire in the upcoming month, coupled with a high unemployment rate, lenders expect a large portion of these ‘hardships’ to become delinquencies. According to the “Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices” from the Federal Reserve, lenders started to tighten standards on auto loans in the first half of 2020. 

Gas Prices 

Gasoline prices reversed the May trend and started to increase. Since the lowest point at the end of April, prices are up $0.40, to $2.18 per gallon last week, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Although in July, prices remained relatively stable. 

Current Wholesale Market Overview 

Auction Insights 

  • Carmax, Carvana, and the other larger buyers continue to show their dominance in the lanes as the increase in pricing related to winning bids is forcing smaller buyers to step back from bidding for fear of getting stuck with high priced inventory.  
  • The portion of the market that is showing some stabilization and a slight softening are the “edgier” units – those with higher mileage and lower condition scores. At the onset of the pandemic, the lower price point of these vehicles made them desirable, but this is a portion of the market that is showing some stability now. The demand has shifted now toward newer model year, lower mileage, and clean condition units that provide a viable substitution for consumers that are in the market for a new vehicle.  
  • Last week values continued to rise, but we did experience a small increase in no-sales as sellers continue to raise their floors and buyers show some hesitancy around what the future holds for used cars.  
  • Auction volume is showing some regionality in trends, with volume increasing, particularly of rental units, in portions of the country that have been harder hit by spikes in COVID-19 cases. Additionally, in the past two weeks we’ve seen pockets of damaged units being sold in various parts of the country with sellers taking advantage of the strong market for late model vehicles.  
  • Auction Operations: 
    • Last week, Manheim announced the extension of its Simulcast Success Fee waiver throughout the month of August.  
    • ADESA used its Simulcast+ platform to host a 22-site digital sale for Hertz last week. This new platform for them is “fully digital and highly automated” and allows vehicles to be sold from any location.  

Auction Volume 

Despite most auctions continuing to operate under an all-digital platform, sales volume has rebounded to a level consistent with, and on some days higher than, this time last year. This is being driven by strong retail sales and the need to backfill, leading dealers to use auctions as their main source of inventory. The number of sales bottomed out around an 80% year-over-year decline when most auctions closed their physical sales (and some closed entirely) at the end of March. The graph below illustrates the estimated year-over-year change in sales volume of the wholesale market. The red line is the base line, and any dots above the line indicate higher amounts of sales than the prior year.  

Sales Rate 

At the onset of the pandemic, as shelter-in-place orders went into effect, sales rates quickly tumbled into the teens, but rates have been climbing each week and have now stabilized with just a few more no-sales on the lanes this past week. Independents that have been operating a traditional physical sale continue to report the highest sale rates, many consistently exceeding 70% success week after week. Black Book’s estimate of the overall Weekly Average Sales rate is presented below.  

Current Wholesale Price Trends 

Current Market Level View 

Volume-weighted, overall car segment values increased 0.96% this past week. This is the smallest level of gains in the last seven weeks, when prices first began the rapid week-over-week increases. This is in sharp contrast to this same week last year when overall car segments decreased –0.27%. When volume-weighting is applied, the overall Truck segment (including pickups, SUVs, and vans) values increased by 1.04% last week. This is the first time during the rebounding of values that the increases on Truck segments has exceeded the Cars. Last week, the Minivan and Full-Size Van segments had small declines that were viewed as stability, but the stability didn’t last long with all segments once again increasing this past week; however, it is notable that many were at a smaller pace than previous weeks.  

Year-Over-Year View on Wholesale Prices 

The graph above compares Black Book’s Seasonally Adjusted Retention Index for 2019 and 2020 calendar years. The Black Book Used Vehicle Retention Index is calculated using Black Book’s published Wholesale Average value on two- to six-year-old used vehicles, as a percent of original typically-equipped MSRP. It is weighted based on registration volume and adjusted for seasonality, vehicle age, mileage, and condition. The Index offers an accurate, representative, and unbiased view of the strength of used vehicle market values. It measures an ‘apples-to-apples’ year-over-year retention comparison. 

2020 started slightly below 2019 levels, but the market showed early strength in February and March. As the US economy shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we measured the highest single month drop in April of 6.9 points since launching the Index. As we entered July, wholesale prices continued the rebound that began during the second half of May and continued through the month of June, with June’s Retention Index climbing back to pre-COVID-19 levels with a record jump of 9.1 points. Recently released July’s Index value jumped above 2019 to 126.0 points as wholesale prices continue their climb. 

During the last recession (2007-2009), the Index declined by about 15 points in a span of 12 months before recovery started. We project that during the current recession, the Index will decline over the next six months before it starts to recover, based on our most likely economic scenario. One of the main differences between the current and previous recession is the forced and abrupt shutdown of assembly lines and, as a result, significant reduction in projected used vehicle supply in 2021 and beyond. 

Segment Highlight – Full-Size SUVs 

Segment Overview 

The Full-Size SUV (FSU) segment makes up roughly 5% of the total market, with small growth from 2% in 2009. The segment gives consumers the space and utility that is necessary for large, busy families. Like with the Full-Size Pickup segment, this segment now has some high-end trim options that are gaining popularity with consumers that don’t have large families. 

The smaller siblings in the Mid-Size and Compact Crossover segments have many options for consumers to choose from, with most manufacturers having multiple offerings in each segment, but FSU has fewer options. Ford and General Motors dominate the segment share with short and long wheelbase options such as Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, and Ford Expedition and Expedition Max. 

Historical Trends 

Black Book’s Seasonally Adjusted Retention Index for FSU was negatively impacted by COVID-19 at the onset of the pandemic, but at a lesser amount as compared to the overall market and compared to their smaller sibling segments, Mid-Size and Compact Crossovers. For the month of April, the overall market Index dropped -6.9% to 106.7, but FSU only changed by –3.3% to 114.0. This is in comparison to Mid-Size and Compact Crossovers that fell by –4.5% and –8.7%, respectively in April. As the wholesale market began to rebound, the Index increased 2.1% in June and 4.2% in July to 120.3, higher than pre-COVID-19 reading of 118.0. 

Recent Depreciation Rates  

Overall, FSU has followed the same path as most of the segments throughout the pandemic, but the reaction time has been slightly different from the overall market. The segment was slower to fall at the beginning of the stay-at-home orders as fuel prices were rapidly falling and this gas-guzzling segment is sensitive to fuel prices. As the market has rebounded, the values of the segment have increased, but at a slower pace.  

Used Wholesale Price Projections 

Wholesale Price Impact Under the Most-Likely Economic Scenario 

Wholesale prices dropped significantly in April as uncertainty over COVID-19’s impact and response dampened vehicle demand, resulting in an overall wholesale price decline of 5.9%. We saw a substantial improvement in prices during the last two weeks of May, and the monthly decrease was limited to only -1.5%. In June, wholesale prices continued to increase, and the overall market appreciated by a record 5.7%. As a comparison, last year’s prices declined by 0.9% over the same period. Wholesale prices increased by a record 7.0% in July.  

Short-Term Outlook (Fall of 2020) 

Black Book’s August Published Residual Values (dashed lines) reflect a new economic reality. Once the temporary strengthening during the summer months passes, we project values to stay below our pre-COVID-19 forecast over the next two years, with the deepest declines expected over the next six months. The green line represents our most-likely economic scenario, which does not include a possible second wave of COVID-19, as well as a still undefined second stimulus package. A more severe and prolonged recessionary scenario is shown in red. Projections are indexed to the pre-COVID-19 projections (black line). All values are weighted by the used vehicle sales volume (actual, where available, or projected). 

We project a drop in wholesale prices compared to a pre-COVID-19 baseline this fall, as the US economy suffers through the effects of COVID-19. We anticipate that, later this fall, wholesale prices will be approximately 5% to 10% lower than originally projected before the pandemic, due to a glut in supply and much weaker demand. Prices will start to recover in 2021 as the economy becomes stronger. We also anticipate that older (>6-year-old), cheaper vehicles in average condition will not decline as much due to increased demand for these units. Additionally, we project that newer (zero- to one-year old) models in good condition will retain their strength in the near future due to continuous shortage of new inventory.  

Long-Term Projections (36-Month Residual Values, Fall of 2023) 

The effects of the pandemic will continue to be felt out to 36 months from now. We project that values will return to the pre-COVID-19 baseline as used supply will decline due to cuts in retail and fleet sales throughout the remainder of 2020 and into 2021. 

Wholesale Price Impact Under a  Severe Recession Scenario  

In this scenario, we project a decrease in wholesale prices of up to 15% in early 2021, compared to a pre-COVID-19 baseline, with a slow recovery in the second half of the year. The effects of the pandemic and recession will still be impactful in 36 months, and we project a 10% market level decline of wholesale prices as compared to pre-COVID-19 projections for the second half of 2023. 

Used Retail Vertical  

Used Retail Prices 

With the proliferation of ‘no-haggle pricing’ for used-vehicle retailing, asking prices accurately measure trends in the retail space. From the peak in early April until the end of June, retail listing prices decreased by about 4%. Since the second week of June, we saw a stabilization of used retail prices fueled by higher consumer demand due to stimulus payments, the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and limited used and new inventory. In the last six weeks, used retail prices rebounded to pre-COVID-19 levels. We expect used retail prices to decline later in the fall as stimulus payments are exhausted and the protection in PPP expire. 

Used Retail Inventory 

Many dealers continue to report a shortage of used inventory in the wholesale marketplace. As a result, from the peak in February, we’ve seen a decline in the number of used retail listings by about 25%. The true shortage of vehicles is probably not as severe as this decline would lead you to believe, as many dealers sell some of their best inventory in the first several days before listing them online. Nevertheless, the shortage of used inventory helps keep retail prices elevated even in the weak economic conditions.  

The graph above shows the weekly average of the number of retail listings collected by Black Book, indexed to the first week of the year. We see a continuous decline in the numbers starting at the beginning of May as the economy started to open in the states outside of the Northeast. 

We started 2020 with  active retail listings above previous year’s levels. By July, the listing volume dropped to about 8% below 2019 numbers. Scarcity of used inventory is the main reason for this shortage of retail vehicles for sale. Another important reason that may cause the numbers of listings to go down is that some of the inventory is sold before it has a chance to be listed online. 

Retail Insights 

  • New car deliveries are beginning to increase for dealers, but the vehicles don’t stay on the lot for long. Dealers are reporting some of their lowest inventory levels they have ever experienced, and for many dealers, a large portion of their expected deliveries are being pre-sold.  
  • Used inventory levels also remain low, with days’ supply hovering around the 30-day mark. It is common for us to get reports from dealers that are at a 50% deficit of their typical used inventory levels. 
  • The divide continues to grow between the smaller dealers and the larger outfits as the money required to purchase inventory increases and retail fails to increase at the same pace. The larger dealers are relying on financing and add-on services as a revenue stream to overcome the small retail margins, but this is hurting the smaller dealers that do not have these services to offer.  
  • COVID-19 related manufacturing delays continue to cause slowdowns for new inventory production.  
    • Honda repositioned office workers to the assembly line to keep plants operating in an attempt to meet consumer demand for their vehicles. Production worker absenteeism, due to COVID-19, is causing Honda a shortage of employees that are able to keep the plant operating and the substantial unemployment benefits has made it difficult for them to source temporary employees which led them to look to their office workers to fill in.  
    • A few weeks ago, General Motors announced the closure of the third shift of its Wentzville, Mo. plant due to absenteeism due to COVID-19 as the lack of workers prevented them from being able to keep the plant operating. However, demand for the Mid-Size Pickups that are built at this plant has forced them to re-evaluate the decision and they will be bringing in laid-off employees from other states to keep all three shifts running.  
    • The effects of the shutdowns a couple of months ago continue to ripple through the automotive industry. The all-new Genesis GV80 and redesigned Genesis G80 are going to be delayed until fall due to delays in getting the vehicles emissions certified.  

Retail vs. Wholesale Prices Trends 

Each week, members of the Black Book automotive analyst team, data science team and executive leadership team speak with no less than 30 dealers, along with buyer and seller representatives, wholesalers and others, who represent hundreds of franchise and independent dealers nationwide. These industry experts, along with experts we speak with from leading fleet management and rental car companies, auction leadership, and other industry experts, help to clarify and connect the dots between the wholesale and retail markets, adding to the insights our data reveals.  

Since the start of the pandemic, we have been observing different trends in both wholesale and retail prices (see graph below). In April and May, wholesale prices declined at a higher rate compared to retail prices. As margins grew, dealers reported healthy profits on a per vehicle basis. Retail prices displayed stickiness on the way down. Similarly, as wholesale prices came roaring back to pre-COVID-19 levels, retail prices are slow to recover, exhibiting the same stickiness on the way up. As wholesale to retail margins shrink, it is even more important for dealers to stay up to date on market movements. We are seeing this trend play out on dealership lots, where retail asking prices are not increasing at the same level as wholesale transaction prices. This means dealers are paying more at auctions and through wholesale channels, but those increased wholesale acquisition prices, as a percentage, are not flowing through to the retail lots and online listings, and ultimately to the consumer. The main driver of the slow increase in retail prices, based on our conversations with dealers, is simply the fear of sitting on inventory for too long, coupled with the added risk that the market makes a quick reversal, which leaves them stuck with a vehicle they paid too much for. Dealer sentiment is quite clear—if they are going to pay up for a vehicle in this environment, they are choosing to turn them quickly, even with less margin than normal, to ensure they are not caught with high priced inventory when the market does shift. There is no long game here. There is simply a need to fulfill demand in a risk filled environment. 

The graph below shows this retail / wholesale dynamic since the start of the year. Prices are indexed to the first week. The black line is Black Book’s Retention Index (not adjusted for seasonality). It is calculated using Black Book’s published Wholesale Average value on two- to six-year-old used vehicles, as a percent of original typically-equipped MSRP. It is weighted based on registration volume and adjusted for vehicle age, mileage, and condition. The blue line is a retail index – average listing price of available retail inventory adjusted for mileage. 

CPO Retail Sales 

Certified Pre-Owned has grown in popularity as it provides consumers with an affordable used purchase option with low mileage (a typical 3-year-old CPO vehicle will have around 5,000 less miles than a similar non-CPO vehicle), but with the peace of mind that comes with a new purchase with the additional warranty. Some OEMs also offer special financing rates and terms for their CPO vehicles. For dealers, the cost to certify a vehicle is typically minimal and the return on the retail is typically greater. CPO vehicles are typically viewed as nicer condition units as there are minimum criteria a vehicle must meet to be able to be certified and these typically involve age and mileage restrictions. 

There are additional benefits to consumers that purchase through some OEMs, such as GM that offers an exchange program on their Chevrolet and GMC CPO units. If the customer changes their mind within three days or 150 miles, the purchaser can exchange it for any Buick, Chevrolet, or GMC CPO vehicle.  

For some dealers, there is additional incentive to CPO a certain percentage of their used inventory as it bumps up their status with the manufacturer. For example, BMW takes into consideration a dealer’s CPO sales volume when deciding on the dealership’s new car allocation.  

Cost of certifying a vehicle ranges by manufacturer. Typically, for mainstream OEMs, the cost to the dealer is $500 or less per vehicle, but luxury vehicles can reach into the thousands of dollars and vary by model. In most cases, the full cost to CPO a vehicle is the responsibility of the dealer, including any reconditioning that is necessary for it to receive certification. 

Retail prices of CPO vehicles are generally about 3.5% higher than a similar non-CPO vehicle (adjusted for mileage). But just like the cost to CPO a vehicle, the difference varies among the segments and, for example, can climb to about 7% for near luxury sedans. 

New Vehicles Sales Outlook 

Our New Sales Outlook remains unchanged from last week. We anticipate a significant reduction in US new vehicle sales in 2020 (both retail and fleet sales) due to continued reduction in consumer demand. This is a result of several ongoing factors, including less miles driven due to remote work and shelter-in-place initiatives, high unemployment, and an overall feeling of uncertainty by consumers. Overall, new sales were down 23% during the first six months of the year compared to last year (with a 27% YOY decline in June as most states started to lift shelter-in-place orders). Even as OEMs are restarting assembly lines, there are significant challenges ahead in order to return to a normalized production schedule as we reported in previous updates. The graph below shows our current projections for new vehicles sales for the rest of 2020.  

Due to continuous production disruption and much weaker demand due to economic slow-down, we project a 25% drop (compared to pre-COVID-19 projections) in new sales in 2020 to 12.7mm units in our base economic scenario. In a deep economic recession scenario, we project a 40% drop in new sales in 2020 to 10.2mm units as economy dips into a prolonged recession. 

In the longer-term, we expect new sales volume to return to pre-COVID-19 levels within five years.

Used Vehicle Supply Projections 

Black Book projects a higher than expected used vehicle supply in the wholesale marketplace for the rest of 2020 due to several factors: 

  • Delayed lease returns resulting from lease extensions offered by OEMs – more than 560,000 additional three-year-old units 
  • Extensive de-fleeting by rental car companies, due to lack of consumer and business traveler demand and financial pressure to raise cash – at least 250,000 one- to two-year-old vehicles 
  • Dramatic reduction in auction activities due to COVID-19 in March, April, and May 
  • Increased repossessions due to deteriorating economic conditions in addition to delayed repossessions in April / May – we expect the volume of repossessed vehicles to at least double in the next 6 months compared to last year 

Short Term Lease Return Projections 

When we started the year, lease returns were projected to hit a record volume of above 4.1 million units. Once the pandemic was underway and most manufacturing stopped, OEMs started to encourage lease extensions in order to push returns further into 2020, when they would be able to provide replacement vehicles. As a result, we project at least 560,000 additional units in the second part of 2020 (compared to the pre-COVID-19 estimates) due to a slowdown in sales in April / May, along with expected turn-ins of the lease extensions. 

Rental Unit Returns 

Business and leisure travel collapsed at the end of March. We expect a significant reduction in both categories for the remainder of 2020. In addition, there is no expectation that travel will return to pre-COVID-19 levels over the next several years. According to IATA (The International Air Transport Association), air travel will not return to pre-COVID-19 levels until after 2023. This puts tremendous financial pressure on rental companies that rely on air travel to reduce both their current fleet and scrutinize future vehicle acquisitions.  

At the end of May, Hertz filed for bankruptcy in North America as a result of the pandemic. Last week, Hertz was able to secure a deal with its lenders that allows a gradual reduction of fleet – over 182,000 units between June and December (it was estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 of these units were already sold). In addition to Hertz, we expect other rental companies will continue to reduce their fleet during the fall months to match lower demand for rentals. This practice will lead to over 250,000 additional rental units hitting the wholesale market in the second half of 2020.  

The graph below shows Black Book’s projections for rental returns. The purple line shows the difference between current (darker rectangles) and pre-COVID-19 projections (lighter rectangles).  

In the longer term (later 2021 – 2023), the drop in rental return volume will benefit the price of newer used units, as supply will be limited. 

Longer Term Used Returns Projections 

With the reduction in retail and fleet sales over the next several years, we project approximately 75k used units per month less in the market in 2023, compared to previously projected returns. This lower level of used inventory will be beneficial to used car prices as supply will be limited, helping to bolster valuations. 

Originally posted on F&I and Showroom

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