Last week, data out for January showed auto sales in China plunged a dastardly 22% last month.
It was the largest ever decline for January, and served as a dramatic reminder that China’s auto market – the largest in the world – is mired in a historic slump. Sales have fallen in 19 of the last 20 months.
As indicated at the time by the China Passenger Car Association, you could go ahead and pencil in another horrific month in February given that dealers and factories have been shuttered as part of a country-wide effort to contain the coronavirus.
Well, on Friday, PCA Secretary General Cui Dongshu said that for the first two weeks of this month, car sales in China fell 92%.
There’s little utility in charting that figure – as Cui wrote, in a report, “there was barely anybody at car dealers”. Only 811 units per day (on average) were sold during the first week of February, when sales dropped an astounding 96%.
And yet, we’ll go ahead and put the visual together for you, because nobody can resist rubbernecking a car crash (pun fully intended in this case). Here it is:
Major manufacturers have flagged operational difficulties amid efforts to stop the spread of the epidemic and the PCA said earlier this month that sales will likely fall 30% for February.
That projection may prove to be optimistic. Things were looking a bit better during week two, when daily sales were down “just” 89% on year, and further improvement is expected, but this situation is unequivocally bad – it would be comical were it not for the tragic human toll of the virus.
2020 was already set to mark the third straight annual drop for auto sales in China. The epidemic would appear to make that rather unfortunate prospect a foregone conclusion.
Also on Friday, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said January-February trade slowed sharply.
Exports and imports were hit by delays, work stoppages and regional lockdowns, in addition to the holiday, Li Xingqian, an official with the ministry, said at a briefing.
The damage will be large, but “bearable”, Li remarked.