The stock market didn't celebrate the first day of the second quarter any more than it did the end of the first quarter, with investors once again expressing their worry about the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the global economy. At one point during the day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down more than 1,000 points, and it wasn't able to recover much from those low levels. Overall losses for the Dow, S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC), and Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) all ranged between 4% and 5%.

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Economists have waited for hard data on just how bad the coronavirus-led downturn could get, and they got some troubling initial information from the auto industry Wednesday. General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NYSE:FCAU) both suffered significant share price declines after reporting their sales data for the first quarter, and many fear this could be just the beginning for the industrial giants as they seek to survive the huge disruptions they've seen to their manufacturing capabilities.

View of car dashboard, hand on wheel, and road ahead.

Image source: Getty Images.

How GM fared

General Motors stock lost 7% after the Detroit-based giant said that it delivered just over 618,300 vehicles during the first quarter of 2020. That was off 7% from last year's first quarter, with the company saying that March was a particularly poor month as the worst of the pandemic so far hit the North American market.

GM said that all of its divisions suffered declines, with Buick taking the worst hit, down 35%. Chevrolet and GMC held up the best, down just single-digit percentages, and the Chevy Silverado LD saw a 34% jump in unit sales to nearly 113,000. Cadillac also struggled, though, down almost 16% year over year.

GM has halted production of vehicles as well, and inventory levels reflected that stoppage. The automaker reported inventories of about 668,400 vehicles, which was 18% lower than the corresponding number this time last year.

The latest from Fiat Chrysler

Fiat Chrysler's stock was also down, losing 5% in the wake of its latest sales numbers. The automaker saw even greater declines in first-quarter sales than GM, providing more evidence that the pandemic affected the whole industry.

Fiat Chrysler sold almost 446,800 vehicles during the first quarter. That was down by roughly 51,600, or 10%, from year-ago levels. Retail sales made up about two-thirds of total unit volume, with fleet sales accounting for the rest.

Certain parts of Fiat Chrysler were strong, including a 3% rise for the Ram brand and solid gains for models like the Chrysler Pacifica and Jeep Gladiator. But Jeep overall saw sales drop 14%, and the Dodge brand suffered a 20% decline year over year.

Just the beginning?

GM and Fiat Chrysler didn't break out their monthly sales, but some foreign automakers did, and they reported U.S. sales volumes that were down 37% to 47% from March 2019. With April likely to see complete shutdowns of factories all month, the numbers are only going to get worse for automaker stocks, at least for a while.

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