Sales for car companies with local operations were down substantially in 2020.
The North American headquarters for both Mitsubishi and Nissan are located in Franklin.
Nissan has a manufacturing plan in Smyrna, Tennessee and General Motors has a manufacturing plant in Spring Hill.
Sales for all three companies suffered greatly during the coronavirus pandemic, especially in the spring when widespread lockdowns made it hard to buy a car. Still, even then car dealerships in Williamson County found ways to reach customers.
According to a press release from General Motors, retail sales to individual car buyers had largely recovered for many companies in the auto industry by the end of the year. However, fleet sales to large organizations remained low.
Nissan’s U.S. sales were down by about 19 percent in the fourth quarter and more than 33 percent for full year, compared to 2019 sales figures.
In total, the company sold almost 900,000 cars last year, compared to almost 1.4 million in 2019.
One possible bright spot were sales of Nissan’s all-electric LEAF model, which had its best quarter since 2016. However, that model only accounted for 2 percent of total U.S. sales in the fourth quarter.
Nissan’s Smyrna plan produces the LEAF, as well as the Murano, Maxima, Pathfinder and Rogue models. The plan also produces the Infiniti QX60 model, which is part of Nissan.
Mitsubishi North America’s sales fell by about 42 percent in the fourth quarter and fell by about 28% for the full year, compared to 2019.
The company sold more than 87,000 vehicles in 2020, compared to more than 121,000 in 2019. This is the first full year decrease in Mitsubishi North America’s sales since 2012.
While the sales for 2020 were down sharply, the company argued in a press release that it used the year to assist dealerships with COVID protocols and to lay the groundwork for a more successful 2021. The company is now reducing stock at dealerships, which means customers may have to wait to get a care delivered but can cut costs for dealerships.
The company added 22 dealerships to its network in 2020. In 2019, the company added 36 new dealerships.
In addition, Mitsubishi will soon launch a system that will allow customers to shop for Mitsubishi models online. Customers will be able to see real-time dealership inventory, apply for credit and receive an estimate for a trade-in.
The decision to invest in an online car shopping platform mirrors the growth of e-commerce, home delivery and curbside pickup seen at retail and restaurant businesses.
General Motors fared slightly better. Total deliveries only dropped by about 12 percent in 2020, compared to the year before.
Deliveries in the fourth quarter were actually up by about 5% during the fourth quarter of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.
“We look forward to an inflection point for the U.S. economy in spring,” GM Chief Economist Elaine Buckberg said, according to a press release. “Widening vaccination rates and warmer weather should enable consumers and businesses to return to a more normal range of activities, lifting the job market, consumer sentiment and auto demand.”
The GM plant in Spring Hill assembles the Cadillac XT5 and XT6, the GMC Acadia and Holden Acadia. Sales of the Acadia fell by about 27 percent in 2020 and sales of the XT5 fell by about 30%. Sales of the newer XT6 increased by about 95 percent last year.
The plant also produces engines for a wide range of GM vehicles.