Milan – European car sales bottomed out last month as the automotive industry faced its worst crisis in decades.
Strict lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus closed most dealerships across the continent for the full month of April amid a precipitous drop in consumer spending, causing sales to collapse by an unprecedented 76 percent, the ACEA car manufacturers’ association said Tuesday.
Carmakers across the continent sold just 270 682 vehicles last month, compared with 1.14 million a year earlier, the ‘’strongest monthly drop in car demand since records began,’’ ACEA said.
Southern Europe was the hardest hit with new car registrations down by 97.6 percent in Italy and 96.5 percent in Spain – as both countries struggled with some of the highest levels of coronavirus infection in Europe. France saw an 89 percent contraction while Germany suffered a more mild 61 percent drop.
Sales for the first four months of the year were down 39 percent.
Like March’s 55 percent drop, the decline was far worse even than during the 2008-9 global financial crisis, which triggered a six-year slump in car purchases. The steepest losses during that financial crisis occurred in January 2009, when sales fell 27 percent.
The crisis was striking both mass-market and premium carmakers indiscriminately.
The Volkswagen group maintained the largest market share, expanded by 30 percent despite a 73 percent drop in sales. French rivals PSA and Renault saw declines hovering around 80 percent while Fiat Chrysler – which is seeking a 6.3-billion-euro Italian government-backed loan to relaunch – dropped by 88 percent. BMW and Mercedes parent company Daimler saw sales sink by 65 percent and 79 percent respectively.
By Staff Reporter