File picture: Koji Sasahara / AP.
File picture: Koji Sasahara / AP.

UK and German car sales plunge by around 40 percent

By William Schomberg Time of article published Apr 6, 2020

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London - New car registrations in Britain fell by an annual 40% in March as the coronavirus crisis hit the economy and forced many would-be buyers to stay at home, preliminary data from an industry group showed on Monday.

Sales totalled around 250 000 units, making it the weakest March - typically one of the top two selling months of the year - since 1999 when bi-annual plate changes were introduced.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a shutdown of much of the economy last month as his government sought to slow the spread of coronavirus.

March accounted for nearly 20% of total registrations in 2019 as it is one of two annual occasions when a new licence plate series is issued.

Car sales in Britain have been falling since hitting a record high in 2016. The SMMT's latest forecast, published in January, predicted a drop in full-year demand of just over 2.5% to 2.25 million cars.

Meanwhile, car sales in Germany have also collapsed amid the coronavirus epidemic, with the country registering its biggest drop in new registrations of passenger vehicles in three decades, the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) said on Friday.

Many factories have stopped production due to the coronavirus outbreak. Numerous retailers have also shut down and demand has plummeted.

A total of 215 100 vehicles were newly registered in March, down 38 percent on the same month last year, according to the VDA. Over the whole first quarter of 2020, the number of new registrations fell by 20 per cent to 701 300.

"The spread of the coronavirus and the associated public health measures that have been required - such as the massive restrictions on public life, the closure of businesses and the restricted working capacity of registration offices - played a significant role," the VDA said.

Production has also fallen considerably. German manufacturers only built 287,900 cars last month, 37 percent fewer than in March 2019, according to the VDA. Production declined by 20 percent over the entire quarter.

"We are facing a challenge of an unprecedented scale," VDA president Hildegard Mueller told dpa.

She called for the economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis to be "seriously assessed" before any further burdens are placed on the car industry, such as stricter EU limits on emissions after 2030.

Reuters & DPA

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