China car sales tumble by 92% as coronavirus weighs on industry

Mark Sweney
Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

Car sales in China have collapsed by 92% as the coronavirus shutdown wreaks havoc on the automotive industry.

The China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) said “barely anybody” had looked to buy vehicles in the first half of February. Most dealerships have remained closed as a precaution.

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The plummeting domestic sales – down 96% in the first week of February and 92% across the first half of the month – come days after Jaguar Land Rover revealed it was currently making no sales in China.

“There was barely anybody at car dealers in the first week of February as most people stayed at home,” said Cui Dongshu, the secretary general of the CPCA. “Very few dealerships opened in the first weeks of February and they have had very little customer traffic.”

Only 4,909 cars were sold in the first 16 days of the month, down from 59,930 in the same period last year, in a market where more than 25m cars were sold in 2019.

On Friday the Japanese carmakers Nissan and Honda further delayed restarting their manufacturing plants near the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in China until at least 11 March after the latest government directive to contain the spread.

The shutdown in China has disrupted the global supply chain as carmakers struggle to source the tens of thousands of parts needed for each car.

This week, Ralf Speth, the chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover, said the company had been forced to fly parts in suitcases from China to the UK as supplies continued to dwindle.

Fiat Chrysler has warned it could halt production at one of its four European plants if the supply from China continues to be affected. Toyota and Peugeot-Citroen said their supply chains may be affected but neither expected to close UK plants as a result.