We first reported a couple of weeks back on the destructive effect the coronavirus is having on the retail automotive sector in China. Now we have the full figures for the month of February, and they’re not pretty.
New car sales in China – by the way the world's largest automobile market - fell by 80% last month due to the coronavirus outbreak, the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA), one of the country's industry associations, said last week.
Shining light on this state of affairs is not meant to increase the level of collective panic gripping some circles in regards to the coronavirus, but simply to demonstrate how important the economic consequences of this epidemic are.
"Dealers returned to work gradually in the first three weeks of February and their showroom traffic is very low," the association said, adding that it expects February's drop in sales to be the biggest this year.
Toyota, the first major global automaker to report February sales in China, reported that it sold 23,800 Toyota and Lexus vehicles last month, a 70% drop from the previous year.
The world's largest auto market is girding itself for more bad news as efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 3,000 people in China, disrupts global supply chains and slows consumer demand.
Toyota rival General Motors, the second-largest foreign carmaker in China, said the industry will face "serious challenges" in the first quarter of this year, but expects the situation to improve in the second quarter. At least that's what Chinese President Matt Tsien said in a message on GM's official WeChat account.
GM expects auto sales in China to increase in the second half of the year over the previous year, Tsien added.