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Coronavirus: New car sales in the EU crashed by 76% in April

Jill Petzinger
·Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
GRIMSBY, ENGLAND - MAY 05:  Imported vehicles sit at the docks near Immingham on May 05, 2020 in Grimsby, England. During the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown new car sales have dropped 97%, reportedly the lowest since the end of World War II (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Imported vehicles sit at the docks in Grimsby, England. During the coronavirus lockdown, new car sales dropped 97% in the UK. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

New car registrations almost ground to a halt in the European Union in April, as coronavirus lockdowns were in full swing, keeping people in their homes and car plants and dealerships shut.

Passenger car registrations plunged by over 76% last month from April 2019, according to data released on Tuesday by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).

April saw the biggest yearly drop since ACEA record-keeping began, with carmakers selling just 270,682 new cars — compared to over 1.1 million in April 2019.

Every one of the 27 EU markets suffered a double-digit sales drop last month, with sales in Italy and Spain almost nil. France’s monthly new car registrations fell by nearly 89%, and Germany saw a 60% decline.

April car sales in the UK were equally as dire, with only 4,321 new cars registered, constituting a 97% year-on-year drop and making it the worst month for sales since 1946.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Carmakers struggle with collapse in demand

“With the UK’s showrooms closed for the whole of April, the market’s worst performance in living memory is hardly surprising,” Mike Hawes, head of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said.

“These figures, however, still make for exceptionally grim reading, not least for the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the sector.”

Hundreds of thousands of car plant workers were put on short-time hours across Europe in March, as first supply chains, then demand collapsed.

In the first four months of the year, demand for cars shrunk by almost 40%, the ACEA said.

Most carmakers, including the world’s biggest manufacturer Volkswagen (VOW3.DE), have been gradually brining their plants back online.

However, demand is so low that just a couple of weeks after VW reopened Europe’s biggest car plant in Wolfsburg, it had to temporarily idle two production lines again.

Last week, ratings agency Moody’s again cut its sales forecast for the global automotive market — it now predicts a 20% drop in 2020, from its previous prediction of 14%.

READ MORE: UK unveils new post-Brexit global trade tariff regime

“The orders are simply not there,” Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, auto industry expert at the University of St Gallen said. “The global economy is falling into a deep hole. Consumers lack the money and the courage to buy new cars.”