Europe car sales tank 55% in March on coronavirus lockdowns

The drop even tops that from the 2008-9 global financial crisis, which triggered a six-year slump in car purchases

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The strict lockdowns due to coronavirus has sent European car sales plummeting.

The European carmaker’s association, ACEA, said Friday that new car registrations ‘’recorded a dramatic drop’’ of 55 percent to 567,308 units.

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The drop even tops that from the 2008-9 global financial crisis, which triggered a six-year slump in car purchases. The steepest losses during that financial crisis occurred in January 2009, when sales fell 27 percent.

The coronavirus emergency has European consumers facing economic uncertainty due to the public health crisis that has triggered a dramatic decrease in national wealth, industrial production and commerce deemed non-essential.

Auto industry production shutdowns have affected 1.1 million jobs and reduced production by at least 1.2 million vehicles through the end of last month, according to ACEA statistics. Auto industry revenues account for 7 percent of EU GDP.

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Italy, the first country to be hit by the virus in Europe, suffered the worst drop at 85 percent.

Demand also collapsed in France, by 72 percent, and Spain, by 69 percent. Germany, which avoided tough restrictions longer, recorded a less extreme drop, at 38 percent.

Over the first quarter as a whole, passenger car registrations were down by one quarter.

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On the automaker side, Fiat Chrysler sales dropped by 77 percent, while PSA group dropped 68 percent and Renault by 64 percent. Germany’s Volkswagen resisted somewhat better, with a 46 percent hit, which nonetheless saw its market share grow by nearly 5 percent to 29 percent.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.