European Car Sales Drop Most on Record With Showrooms Closed

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Passenger vehicle registrations fell 52% year-on-year, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association said in a statement Friday. The total of 853,077 cars marks the lowest since at least 1990, when the industry body first started to compile data, and follow similar slumps in China and the U.S.

“With containment or lockdown measures taking hold in most markets from around the middle of the month, the vast majority of European dealerships were closed during the second half of March,” the ACEA said.

Fiat-maker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (NYSE:FCAU) and Peugeot manufacturer PSA Group (PA:PEUP) saw the largest drop in the month, with registrations down 74% and 67% respectively. Volvo Corp.’s registrations dropped the least, coming in 35% below last year.

This month will likely prove no better as car plants remain idle and government-imposed lockdowns exacerbate an economic crash that looks set to outstrip the 2008/09 financial crisis. In China, the first country hit by the virus, signs of a recovery have started to appear, but some analysts are predicting U.S. sales in 2020 will be the worst in almost a decade.

Some European factories will start up again in coming weeks, with Volkswagen (DE:VOWG_p) AG planning to open two sites this month and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (DE:BMWG) looking at the beginning of May.

While many carmakers have pivoted to making face masks and ventilator parts to shore up supplies and help medical personnel, the shutdown has still cratered earnings for the companies. Volkswagen, the world’s biggest carmaker, abandoned its full-year outlook Thursday and reported negative cash flow of 2.5 million euros.

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