The auto industry is one of the main victims of the COVID-19. As expected, global vehicle sales fell by 43% in April to only 4.1 million units, or 3.1 million less than in April 2019. The lockdowns all over the world, the panic among consumers and the issues with unemployment generated the worst monthly decline over the last 50 years. But the worst is yet to come.
China, the only bright spot
According to data for 94 countries and estimations for over one hundred, the sales of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles posted double-digit drops in 9 of the 10 regions in the world. China was the only region to post an increase, as the country emerged from the outbreak before the rest of the world.
Sales in China (which include Taiwan and Hong Kong) totaled 2.1 million units, up by 4%. Moreover, sales in this region counted for 51% of global total. According to several sources, the demand soared during the first days of post-lockdown mostly because of several deals that started before the outbreak but that could not be finished. In addition to this, some provinces in China also saw higher sales following more interest from consumers on private transportation.
The early signs of recovery in China (preliminary data for May indicate that sales fell again) contrast with the dramatic situation in the other big markets – USA-Canada and Europe-Turkey. Registrations in the latter fell by 76% to only 373,000 units as a consequence of strict mobility measures taken in key markets like Italy, Spain, the UK and France. The only positive news from Europe are related to the relatively safe position of the electrified vehicles.
The pandemic shook the global industry so much that Europe was even outsold by Japan-Korea, which became the third largest vehicle market only behind China and USA-Canada. These two countries have been able to manage the pandemic in a better way, so the cases and death tolls are still under control. Hence, their population was somehow more free than in the West. Sales of vehicles fell by 18% to 435,000 units.
Only 21.3 million vehicles sold through April
Sales of vehicles during the first four months of the year totaled 21.3 million units, down by 28% compared to January-April 2019. While the situation showed small improvement in some countries during May, the industry will take a lot of time to be fully recovered (if so). Sales should stop falling that much during the coming months, which does not mean that there will be growth.
By the end of this year, the plant utilisation global rate will be around 53%. Last year it was 71%.
Worldwide vehicle sales should total 70 million units by the end of December. This represents a drop of 22% compared to 90.2 million vehicles sold last year. Despite the aggressive commercial campaigns and more incentives, the high unemployment rates and uncertainty will prevail during the coming months, affecting the demand of cars. The forecast is shockingly lower than the current vehicle production capacity of 131 million units.
Source: National Car Sales associations, own estimations, FGW database