BERLIN -- The business climate in Germany's auto sector suffered its biggest slump and hit its lowest level in April since 1991, when the Ifo economic research institute began collecting data post-reunification, a survey showed on Monday.
The news came ahead of a conference call that Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold with representatives of the German auto industry on Tuesday to discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on production and sales.
Ifo said its survey of 75 auto companies showed a current business index for the sector fell to minus 85.4 points in April from minus 13.2 in March. The April reading fell below a reading of minus 82.9 points registered in April 2009, during the financial crisis.
"We have never seen such bad figures for this key sector," said Klaus Wohlrabe, head of forecasting at Ifo.
Sub indices on orders, and production expectations and export prospects all fell, with capacity utilization down to 45 percent.
Ahead of Tuesday's meeting with Merkel, Volkswagen and Daimler have urged the government to help boost demand for cars.
The pandemic hammered first-quarter profits and forced both automakers to drop their outlooks for the year.
Car sales across the world have slumped as measures to contain the pandemic forced production lines to shut and showrooms to close, starving automakers of much needed cash for investments.
Volkswagen restarted production at its main factory in Wolfsburg last week, the latest of a number of European automakers to take advantage of eased coronavirus lockdown rules to resume manufacturing.