Automotive manufacturers and dealers started to feel the impact from the coronavirus pandemic last month, as the number of new car registrations plunged by 55%.
According to the latest data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), just 567,308 new cars were registered across the EU in March, as the majority of dealerships were made to close as part of national lockdowns imposed to try and contain the virus.
Out of all 27 EU markets, Italy was worst hit, with registrations plummeting by over 85% compared with the same month a year ago. France and Spain were close behind, recording a 72% and 69% drop respectively.
Germany, the automotive heart of the EU, fared slightly better, but still suffered a nearly 38% drop in new car registrations.
For the first quarter of 2020, demand for new cars slid by more than 25% in the EU, again with Italy, France, and Spain worst affected.
In the UK, the number of new cars registered in March fell by over 44%. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said this was the worst March for sales since the late nineties. The industry trade body downgraded its 2020 outlook by 23% to 1.73 million units, 23% lower than its previous prediction for the year.
Carmakers are slowly starting to bring plants across Europe back online after almost all of them were closed mid-March, due to supply chain breakdowns, a collapse in demand, and government restrictions over worker safety.
German car giants Volkswagen (VOW.DE), Daimler (DAI.DE), and BMW (BMW.DE) put hundreds of thousands of workers on short-time work in March – meaning the government pays up to 67% of the workers’ salaries.
Volkswagen said it will restart plants in Europe from next week, and plans to bring factories in South Africa, South America, and Mexico back online from May.