LONDON -- Jaguar Land Rover says it may never recoup the sales lost because of the coronavirus outbreak that has stifled production and kept customers away from dealerships in one of the company's biggest markets.
"At the moment, we don't see anything happening in terms of demand in China," CEO Ralf Speth said in an interview with Bloomberg.
"Now the question will be: 'Will this kind of loss of demand be caught up, or will we just see a normal rise in demand?' Nobody knows and nobody knows how long it will take," Speth said.
JLR gets about 20 percent of its sales from China. The automaker had seen a recovery in sales in the key market, helping it to return to profitability in recent quarters.
While JLR's factory in the city of Changshu near Shanghai is expected to reopen next week, the impact of parts shortages could affect the company's UK production. JLR's UK plants have only about two weeks' worth of supplies left, Speth said. The automaker faces a shortage of parts such as key fobs.
JLR operates three car factories in the UK, making nearly 400,000 vehicles a year.
Speth said the automaker has flown Chinese parts in suitcases to Britain to maintain production.
Components made in China are used in millions of vehicles assembled around the world and Hubei province - the center of the virus outbreak - is a major hub for vehicle parts production and shipments.
Automakers have shuttered plants in China to help contain the spread of the virus. More than 1,800 people have died, and economic activity has slowed with blanket quarantines and travel restrictions.
Auto sales plunged 22 percent across China last month as the outbreak gained momentum, and may sink 30 percent in February, according to the China Passenger Car Association.
Separately, Speth said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the UK and European Union will agree to a deal that allows for free and fair-trade following Britain's exit from the bloc. Automakers depend on the complex supply networks that require parts to cross borders multiple times before a car is finished.
Reuters contributed to this report