March 4, 2020 / 10:02 AM / a month ago

China's passenger car sales fall 80% in February on coronavirus epidemic

FILE PHOTO: An employee wearing a face mask works on a car seat assembly line at Yanfeng Adient factory in Shanghai, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

BEIJING (Reuters) - Passenger car retail sales in China, the world’s biggest auto market, fell 80% in February because of the coronavirus epidemic, one of the country’s industry associations said on Wednesday.

The China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) said in a statement that China’s overall passenger car sales dropped 80%, without giving a full sales figure for the month.

“Dealers returned to work gradually in the first three weeks of February and their showroom traffic is very low,” CPCA said, adding it expects February’s sales drop will be the steepest of this year.

Japanese automaker Toyota (7203.T), the first major global automaker to report its February sales in China, said it sold 23,800 Toyota and premium Lexus cars last month, down by 70% from a year earlier.

The world’s biggest car market is bracing for further bad news as efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 2,900 people in mainland China, disrupts global supply chains and dampens consumer demand.

Toyota rival General Motors (GM.N), China’s second biggest foreign automaker, said the industry will face “serious challenges” in the first quarter this year, but anticipates the situation will ease in the second quarter, its China president Matt Tsien said in a post on GM’s official WeChat account.

GM hopes China’s auto sales will report year-on-year growth in the second half of this year, Tsien added.

Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu, Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; editing by David Evans and Barbara Lewis

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