The European automakers association, ACEA, has radically revised downward its 2020 forecast for passenger-car sales after the coronavirus pandemic led to a collapse in demand.
Sales are forecast to fall by 25 percent to 9.6 million in the EU from 12.8 million in 2019, ACEA said in a statement on Tuesday.
That would be the lowest number of cars sold in the EU since 2013 after Europe emerged from the 2008-09 financial crisis. The decline this year will halt a six-year run of gains starting in 2014.
The drop will be the sharpest-ever single-year fall for Europe's auto sector, ACEA said.
ACEA Director General Eric-Mark Huitema said the association hopes the "dramatic scenario can be mitigated through fast and strong measures by the EU and national governments."
Before the coronavirus outbreak, ACEA had predicted that sales would decline by 2 percent in 2020, following a 1.2 percent gain in 2019.
Europe’s auto industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with factories and showrooms closed for all or parts of March, April and May.
ACEA represents 16 car, bus, truck and van makers with operations in Europe.
Industry analysts are predicting similar or even sharper declines.
IHS Markit expects that sales will fall by 25 percent in all of Europe to 15.5 million, while LMC Automotive forecasts that western Europe sales will fall by 26 percent to 10.6 million.
AlixPartners is forecasting that European sales will fall even further, by 32 percent, and Moody’s is predicting a 30 percent decline.
European passenger-car registrations fell 57 percent in May and are down by 41 percent for the year to date.
ACEA expects sales to slightly recover in the coming months as lockdowns end and business slowly returns to normal.
Countries including France and Germany are rolling out incentives and scrapping programs to boost the market, with an emphasis on electrified and fuel-efficient vehicles
The UK auto group SMMT has called for similar government support in Britain, the second-largest market in Europe after Germany.
Bloomberg contributed to this report