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European Union Auto Sales Plummet More Than 50% In March

European Union Auto Sales Plummet More Than 50% In March.

“A second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak could stall the recovery”

Sales of cars and SUVs in the European Union (EU) plummeted a record 55% in March as showrooms and factories closed because of the coronavirus crisis, and amongst the big manufacturers, BMW emerged as the most successful with deliveries only down 40.7%, ACEA figures show.

ACEA is the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, known by its acronym in French.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was the worst performer in the month with sales of Fiats, Jeeps and Alfa Romeos down 76.6% at 22,070. Groupe PSA was next worst, selling 68.1 % fewer Peugeots, Citroens, Opels, Vauxhalls and DSs at 68,816. Not far behind was Renault, down 64.7% at 55,663.

BMW sold 43,423 vehicles.

ACEA said EU sales in March were 567,308 compared with 1,264,569 in the same month last year. In the first quarter, EU sales fell 25.6% to 2,480,855.

Italy was the worst performing country in March with sales off 85.4%, closely followed by France, down 72.2%. Germany, Europe’s biggest market, fell 37.7%.

Car sales in Europe for all of 2020 are expected to recover later this year and show an overall fall of about 20%.

Manufacturers are hoping that  this short-lived crash in demand will be followed by a quick and vigorous “V” shaped recovery, but forecasters worry this recovery scenario might be flattened by a second wave of coronavirus infections.

“A second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak could stall the recovery in the global automotive sector as re-implementation or the extension of safety measures, such as movement restrictions and business operating restrictions, will see demand for new vehicles falling further,” Fitch Solutions said in a recent report.

Slashing numbers
Just over a month ago, forecasters were hoping that auto sales in Europe might slip only about 5%, but as the virus impact accelerated forecasters have been slashing numbers, and now a 20% fall for Europe is a rough consensus. Most forecasts assumed this strong “V” shaped recovery. LMC Automotive expects 2020 car and SUV sales in Western Europe to fall 18.3%, although it was braced for a worsening in demand.  

Forecaster IHS Markit is much less pessimistic. It reckons Western and Central European sales will slide 13.6% in 2020 to 15.6 million, but recover by 4.2% in 2021, 4.3% in 2022 and 1.4% in 2023.

GlobalData analyst Calum MacRae is clinging on to the hopes for a “V” shaped recovery, but worries about a “U” shaped one.

“In terms of the rest of the year our central assumption remains for a V-shaped recovery – i.e. a sharp contraction followed by a rapid recovery as pent-up demand is fulfilled in the 3rd and 4th quarters. However, that assumes that government programs to limit collateral economic damage from the lockdowns are successful – if not the prognosis moves more to a U-shape recovery,” MacRae said.

In a statement Thursday, ACEA called for a rapid restart of auto manufacturing and wanted individual EU governments to help this with subsidies and incentive schemes.


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