China car sales tumble 92% in first half of February on virus


China car sales plunged 92% during the first two weeks of February in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the China Passenger Car Association.

It was even worse in the first week, with nationwide sales tumbling 96% to a daily average of only 811 units, PCA said in a report released earlier this week. Deliveries this month may slump by about 70%, resulting in a 40% drop in the first two months of 2020, it said. The figures exclude minivans. The situation is expected to improve in the third week of February compared with the start of the month, PCA Secretary General Cui Dongshu said in an interview on Friday.

In this Feb. 17, 2020, photo and released by Xinhua News Agency, workers assemble Audi A6 L cars at a workshop of FAW-Volkswagen Automobile Co., Ltd. in Changchun, northeast China's Jilin Province, Automakers are reopening factories in China that were idled by anti-virus controls as they try to reverse a sales slump in their biggest market.

The numbers underscore the extent by which car sales have been affected in the world’s largest automobile market. Even before the outbreak, auto sales in the country were heading for an unprecedented third straight annual decline because of a slowing economy and trade tensions.

China’s commerce ministry said Thursday it will work with other government departments on more measures to stabilize auto sales and reduce the impact of the epidemic. Separately, Chinese policy makers have been discussing extending subsidies for electric-vehicle purchases beyond this year to revive sales, people familiar with the matter have said.

With assistance from Matt Turner.