New vehicle registration totals for El Paso County in July show the local auto industry appears to have largely recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Economic Forum.
The 2,490 new vehicles registered last month in the county was down just 5.8% from July 2019 and the highest monthly total since December, according to data provided to the forum by Colorado Interactive. Buyers have up to 60 days to register a new vehicle, so July’s numbers likely reflect sales made in May, when dealers were allowed to reopen showrooms after a stay-at-home order imposed by Gov. Jared Polis expired.
“We are seeing new vehicle sales restored to normal levels and used vehicles are selling above normal levels,” said Kevin Shaughnessy, vice president of operations for Phil Long Dealerships, southern Colorado’s largest dealership group.
“There is a bit of a feeding frenzy in the new vehicle market because manufacturers closed plants for two months during the worst of the pandemic, so there has been limited inventory until shipments resumed very recently.”
Registrations during the first seven months of the year remain down 20.5% from the same period a year earlier, mostly as a result of declines averaging more than 40% during March, April and May. That parallels a nationwide decline of 20.7% during the same period. Shaughnessy said he remains “hopeful but cautious” about new vehicle sales during the rest of the year, barring further stay-at-home orders triggered by another surge in COVID-19 cases.
Statewide new vehicle registrations for May and June reflect an industry struggling with a weak economy. Registrations for the two months were down 28.9% from the same period last year to 30,603, with new light truck numbers down 23.3% and new car registrations off nearly 50%, according to the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association. New vehicle registrations for the first half of the year were down 17.9% from the same period a year ago to 102,549, with light trucks off 12.5% and cars down 36.5% from a year earlier.
“The dip in Colorado’s new vehicle registrations through June reflects our nation’s economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tim Jackson, president of the dealer association. However, he added, “Colorado’s new car dealers report an improving demand curve” during recent months, helped by low interest rates and steady gasoline prices.
Colorado’s used vehicle market remains slower to recover than the new vehicle market, data from the association shows.
Used vehicle registrations in May and June were down 34% from the same months last year to 31,002, while registrations for the first half of the year were off 22.2% from the same period a year ago to 98,140.
The numbers reflect used vehicles that are 7 years old or newer.