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Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and Tesla Model 3 Top List of U.S. Car Sales Hurt By COVID-19

A new study by sees big drops in two very popular green vehicles.

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A new iSeeCars study found that the top fifteen vehicles that had the greatest slowdown in sales between February and March are a mix of alternative fuel vehicles as well as cars and SUVs of varying sizes. Two very popular green vehicles have seen big drops in sales due to the stay at home mandates. The Tesla Model 3 electric car and the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid crossover both top the list. These two were barely keeping pace with demand prior to the business slowdowns and were also the top-selling green vehicles of their segments by a country mile.

iSeeCars chart on vehicle slowdowns due to COVID-19

The iSeeCars researchers analyzed over 1.8 million used cars for sale this past February and March 2020 to determine which models have the most significant slowdown in sales. By that, iSeeCars specifically means the models with the largest drop in the percentage of the model sold within a month of being listed.

Related Story: 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is Special But Frustrated Buyers Still Willing to Wait Months to Get One

Although we agree with the premise of the iSeeCars study, we feel that for these two models, the group is drawing some incorrect assumptions. For example, the study concluded that "These vehicles present prime negotiation opportunities for consumers who are in the market for a used car." While that may be true for other models on the list (above), our gut and our participation in online forums indicate that the problem with these two models is not a slowdown in buyer interest, but rather a lack of available inventory to purchase.

“Overall car sales have plummeted as a result of stay-at-home orders and the economic downturn,” said iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly. “But for those fortunate enough to be able to make a car purchase, now is an opportune time as dealers increasingly need to move inventory, and these slow-selling models could present great deals.”

Tesla's Model 3 topped this list. “The Tesla Model 3 is typically in very high demand, and as a result, it is the used car with the best resale value,” said Ly. “However, because they are lingering on lots now is the time when dealers may offer more deals than usual.” We'd like to ask readers if they have found any Tesla Model 3 inventory sitting available for sale. Rather than the cars sitting available for sale at open Tesla sales sites, we are of the assumption that the cars may have been placed in the California delivery pipeline and the mandates in California interrupted that sales process.

Related Story: Shopper Explains Why Buying a Toyota During COVID-19 Social Distancing Mandates Is Easy

We recently ran a spotlight story on the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. One reader recounted how difficult it was to find a RAV4 Hybrid for purchase. In the end, a cancellation related to a buyer with a lack of funds due to COVID-19 freed up a RAV4 Hybrid for the reader to take home. It was the only one in stock and was only on hand due to a canceled order.

What say you, readers? Have you shopped for either model in the past two months, or do you work in sales for either brand? Tell us if you think the slowdown in deliveries is due to vehicles sitting un-delivered, or a disruption in the sales and production cycle that precluded delivery.

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin.

Image by John Goreham. Chart courtesy of Use with permission only.

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Mark (not verified)    May 1, 2020 - 8:16PM

I think part of the reason for the sharp drop in Tesla orders stems from the fact that they build in California and sell more in California than anywhere else and California had a very aggressive shutdown earlier than other states. This kept infection rates low but also affected Tesla the most.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    May 3, 2020 - 2:02AM

As mentioned, Covid-19 and lock down for potential buyers and factories alike are hitting almost all businesses. And the temporarily lowered gas prices are also going to get some buyers to wonder about the value of economy cars and EVs. In addition, I'd say that there was a lot of pent up demand for the Tesla Model Y, and many potential buyers of the Model 3 shifted over to the Model Y after it has received good reviews. Also I think that similarly the RAV4 Hybrid sales has been slowed by the anticipation of the RAV4 Prime. Even though the RAV4 Prime is not out yet, it was supposed to be coming out this summer. Also even though the RAV4 Prime's price has not been announced, it is quite possible that the net price could be lower than the RAV4 Hybrid. And it is a far better vehicle. Ultimately, there is little reason to expect that ANY vehicle sales would be good right now, with the exception of heavy discounting to attract any buyers. Hopefully we will see things turn around for the better in a few months.