MILAN — Registrations in Italy fell by 85 percent in March, as sales activity came to a halt during the month because of restrictions to counter the coronavirus outbreak.
New-car sales were 28,326, the transport ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Registrations had fallen by 5.9 percent in January and 8.8 percent in February, when the virus was first detected in Italy.
On March 8, large parts of northern Italy including Milan were locked down to prevent the spread of the virus, halting most commercial activities, including car sales. The restrictions were extended to the rest of the country on March 10. The lockdown in Italy was initially imposed until April 3, but the government has said it will be extended until at least April 13. An official decree is expected by Thursday.
Other countries with coronavirus limitations have seen similar declines. Sales in France fell 72 percent in March, as a lockdown there was imposed on March 16; registrations in Spain dropped by 69 percent.
In a best-case situation, in which the lockdown is lifted by the end of April or early May, annual sales in Italy will fall 32 percent to 1.31 million units, according to the foreign automakers association UNRAE. If the restrictions continue for a longer period and sales remain close to zero until the end of August, just over 1 million cars will be sold for the year, the group said.
Consulting firm AlixPartners said on April 3 that sales could fall up to 43 percent this year in the worst case scenario and without an adequate additional stimulus to demand.
UNRAE's Michele Crisci called for more relief measures from the government, including expanding current subsidies for cars that emit no more than 70 grams of CO2 per kilometer to cars that emit 95 g/km. Incentives for company cars should be increased, he said.
Crisci said the requested measures should last until at least the middle of 2021 and would cost an estimated 3 billion euros.