Car sales in China fell to fresh lows in January as the coronavirus kept buyers away from showrooms, intensifying the gloom hanging over the industry.
Retail car sales fell 22 percent to 1.71 million units, the biggest-ever drop for the month of January, the China Passenger Car Association said Thursday. The group predicted a worsening outlook, saying February sales may drop more than 30 percent.
The outbreak is exacerbating manufacturer and dealership woes in the world’s biggest market, which is also being hit by a slowing economy and trade tensions.
Sales were heading for an unprecedented third straight annual decline even before the virus forced authorities to lock down the epicenter of Wuhan and beyond.
“We had the worst January ever in terms of retail,” said Cui Dongshu, PCA’s secretary general. “Pressure on retail has never mounted to such a level since we started tracking the data.”
Full-year sales may decline 5 percent, provided that the virus outbreak starts to steadily fade in April, PCA said.
Sales to dealerships fell 20 percent to 1.61 million cars last month, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, another industry body, said Thursday. That’s the biggest monthly drop since January 2012.