European car sales crash as pandemic cripples economies across the continent

European car sales took a dive last month as the automotive industry faces its worst crisis in decades.

Strict lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus closed most dealerships across the continent for the full month of April amid a precipitous drop in consumer spending, causing sales to collapse by an unprecedented 76%, the ACEA car manufacturers’ association said Tuesday.

Carmakers across the continent sold just 270,682 vehicles last month, compared with 1.14 million a year earlier, the ’’strongest monthly drop in car demand since records began,” ACEA said.

Southern Europe was the hardest hit with new car registrations down 97.6% in Italy and 96.5% in Spain -- as both countries struggled with some of the highest levels of coronavirus infection in Europe. France saw an 89% contraction while Germany suffered a 61% drop, AP reports.

European car sales for the first four months of the year were down 39%.

Like March’s 55% drop, the decline was far worse even than during 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%.

The Volkswagen group maintained the largest market share, expanded by 30% despite a 73% drop in sales. French rivals PSA Group and Renault saw declines hovering around 80% while Fiat Chrysler -- which is seeking a 6.3-billion-euro Italian government-backed loan to relaunch -- dropped by 88%. German luxury carmakers BMW and Daimler saw sales sink 65% and 79% respectively.

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