China car sales plummet 80 percent amid coronavirus crisis

Car sales in China plummeted last month as the coronavirus epidemic kept buyers out of dealerships, an industry group said Wednesday.

Retail auto sales in the world’s largest auto market sank 80 percent in February, which is expected to be the steepest drop of the year, the China Passenger Car Association said. The group did not release a specific sales figure for the month but it said average daily sales got better toward the end of February, according to Bloomberg News.

“Dealers returned to work gradually in the first three weeks of February and their showroom traffic is very low,” the association said.

Moreover, the group said wholesales from automakers to dealerships likely tumbled 86 percent last month as the coronavirus epidemic slammed both demand for and production of cars, Bloomberg reported.

The report is just the latest sign that the coronavirus outbreak stands to take a hefty toll on the already struggling car market. Global vehicle sales are expected to drop 2.5 percent this year amid the outbreak’s impact on manufacturing and demand, Moody’s said last week. The credit-rating agency said it sees Chinese auto sales falling 2.9 percent for the year, “a meaningfully weaker performance” than the previous projection of 1 percent growth.

Some automakers have already indicated that they’re feeling pain from the coronavirus epidemic. Toyota said its February sales of Toyota and Lexus premium cars in China tumbled 70 percent from last year to 23,800. And General Motors expects the auto industry will see “serious challenges” in the first quarter of the year, though things should get better in the second quarter, according to a WeChat post from the American automaker.

With Post wires

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