PARIS -- Dealerships will be allowed to reopen in France starting on Monday, May 11, subject to regional restrictions, as the country takes the first steps to emerge from a nearly two-month lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
Car showrooms were closed on March 16 when the French government announced a widespread lockdown, although repair and replacement parts sales were allowed to continue.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Tuesday that most stores would be allowed to reopen, although travel will continue to be restricted.
France will be monitoring coronavirus cases daily, and areas that show a spike will be locked down again, Philippe said. Bruno Le Maire, the French economic minister, said Wednesday that departmental authorities will be given wide latitude to reopen or close businesses.
New-car sales in France fell by 72 percent in March, and April registrations are expected to be even lower, with most buyers unable to take delivery of orders.
Under similar conditions, sales in Italy were down 98 percent through April 24. Italian dealerships will restart their sales operations on Monday, May 4. They halted sales operations on March 18 after a government decree introduced a nationwide lockdown. Workshops remained open for urgent repairs.
Showrooms in Germany, Europe's largest auto market, were allowed to reopen on April 21.
According to AAA Data, a French statistics company, registrations in France fell below 300 a day in mid-April before rising to more than 1,000 after April 20, compared to more than 5,000 a day before the lockdown, the French auto magazine L'Argus reported this week.
Christophe Duchatelle, the commercial director of Volvo France, told the French magazine Journal Auto on Tuesday that just 40 Volvos were registered in France during April.
Duchatelle said that he expected sales volume to be at 50 percent for the first month after dealerships reop, at 80 percent in the second month and returning to typical volumes after three full months.
Yves Jeannin, a Volkswagen dealer in north-central France, told the French automotive website AutoActu on Wednesday that revenues would be down by 20 to 25 percent this year.
He said that incentives to move new cars could hurt sales of used vehicles. Jeannin said that his group had been delivering some cars to customers at their homes during the confinement and would continue to offer that option.
Andrea Malan in Milan contributed to this report