European car sales fell dramatically in April as coronavirus lockdowns in the region closed car dealerships and brought a halt to manufacturing and sales, the latest industry data showed Tuesday.
New car registrations in the EU fell 76.3% in April, from the same month a year ago, according to data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).
“The first full month with COVID-19 restrictions in place resulted in the strongest monthly drop in car demand since records began,” the ACEA said, adding that the number of new cars sold fell from 1,143,046 units in April 2019 to 270,682 units last month.
Each of the 27 EU markets recorded double-digit declines in April, but Italy and Spain saw the biggest losses, with car registrations falling by 97.6% and 96.5% respectively. In Germany, sales dropped by 61.1% and France saw an 88.8% contraction in April, according to the association. In the U.K., which is no longer included in the EU-wide figures, car sales dropped 97.3%.
New car sales in the EU had already seen a dramatic drop of 55% in March, compared with the same month a year earlier, as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. In mid-March, most European countries introduced strict lockdowns, leaving the vast majority of European dealerships closed during the second half of March.
Germany’s economy is particularly reliant on its car industry and auto exports, and car dealerships were among the first businesses that were allowed to re-open on April 20 as long as strict social distancing and hygiene measures were in place.
Germany’s car executives have tried to convince Chancellor Angela Merkel to introduce supportive measures for the country’s car industry, damaged in recent years by the diesel emissions cheating scandal and under pressure to become greener, in line with customer expectations and environmental targets.
So far, however, Merkel’s administration has appeared reluctant to give the car sector a specific package of aid measures, despite the industry employing over 800,000 people, according to data from the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA).