The coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on auto sales in China with results down 92% through the first half of February, after an 18% drop for the previous month, that officials are blaming solely on the deadly scourge.
The China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) reported China’s auto companies sold 4,909 passenger vehicle sales in the first 16 days of February, down from 59,930 vehicles last February. The slide is tied directly to the fact that potential shoppers are locked up in their homes.
“Very few dealerships opened in the first weeks of February and they have had very little customer traffic,” the association said.
Mainland China recorded 889 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection on Thursday, Reuters reported, adding the death toll also rose by 118 to 2,236, mostly in the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan where the outbreak began, and which remains under virtual lockdown.
Before the outbreak, officials predicted sales for 2020 would fall 2%, compared with last year’s decline of 8.2%. However, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers is predicting first-half sales will be down at least 10% and 5% for the full year. Those numbers presume the epidemic is controlled by April.
China’s commerce ministry is moving to offset a larger decline, saying it plans to implement plans to bolster auto sales in the near future. Some automakers are attempting to resolve the problems themselves.
Geely is now allowing buyers order and purchase vehicles through its website and offering to deliver the vehicles to their homes. Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Tesla are also offering similar services in an attempt to keep sales moving along. The move may also prove to be beneficial after the virus is controlled.
Victor Yang, a senior official at Geely, told Reuters promoting online sales will allow automakers to directly reach customers through sales and marketing and help them build experience should they want to continue to do so in future.
In the meantime, several automakers are readying to resume production in China, but a few have put that off for a bit longer. Nissan Motor Co. said its plants in Xianyang in the central province of Hubei, and Zhengzhou in the neighboring province of Henan, were slated to open Monday, but will remain closed indefinitely.
The move, according to Nissan, stems from a government directive asking companies in the Hubei province to stay closed until March 10. Honda Motor Co plans to honor that request, keeping its plants in Wuhan, Hubei’s provincial capital in which the outbreak began, closed until March 11.
Toyota Motor Corp. said it would resume production on Monday at its plant in Chengdu in the southwestern province of Sichuan, returning all four of its China assembly plants to operation from next week, but output would be limited at some, according to Reuters.