Global Sales Impact of COVID-19 Is Staggering

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

The question haunting every industry exec’s mind is: how long does it last? Few can hazard a guess, what with the coronavirus pandemic spreading through global markets at an uneven speed, with uneven impacts (in part brought on by uneven government responses).

Last week, analysts at J.D. Power issued best- and worst-case forecasts for the coming months and year in the U.S. market. This week, we got a snapshot of how the pandemic has upset markets overseas.

You just read about the return to something approaching normalcy in the Chinese new car market, brought on by the recent easing of quarantine measures across the nation — especially in the pandemic’s epicenter of Wuhan. Stats from J.D. Power’s weekly webinar show that progression, but they also show the distance left to go before consumers in that country return the kind of sales dealers are used to.

At the height of China’s epidemic (the first week of February), dealerships recorded a 96-percent drop in sales versus normal volume. As of April 3rd, 99 percent of the country’s dealerships had reopened, but dealer traffic amounted to only 66 percent of normal levels.

In the first half of March, new vehicle sales in China had recovered by half, down only 47 percent, year over year.

While the pandemic’s arrival in Europe came a month after it first spread through China’s manufacturing heartland, the impact on new vehicle sales, depending on country, was almost as severe. Sales fell 85 percent, year over year, in Italy last month. Spain, nearly as hard hit as its Mediterranean neighbor, saw monthly sales fall 69 percent in March. France’s tally was 72 percent below 2019 figures.

The virus spread north from Europe’s Italian epicenter, prompting stay-at-home orders and business closures at a later date than in the south. Still, UK sales dropped 44 percent in March. In Germany, which has fared relatively well thus far, new vehicle volume saw a 38-percent year-over-year drop last month.

Auto plants in that region are, like those in North America, offline.

On this side of the Atlantic, March’s U.S. sales tally showed a 41-percent decline for the month. However, that number masks the quick progression towards zero seen in the latter half of the month. The week ending March 29th saw U.S. retail sales down 79 percent, year over year. One week later, on April 5th, sales were off 84 percent from last year.

Some large markets, like hardest-hit New York City and the Detroit metro area, are almost completely devoid of sales. As of today, only 24 states, comprising 44 percent of 2019’s sales volume, are allowing dealerships to open their doors to the public. The rest is a mishmash of online or remote sales, or no sales at all.

“The weak exit rate from March combined with late arriving stay-home orders in many states means the industry still has yet to reach the bottom,” J.D. Power stated, noting that, thus far in April, the top 25 markets in the U.S. are showing declines of at least 50 percent.

[Image: Audi]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Redgolf Redgolf on Apr 09, 2020

    ToolGuy - "a nice animation of a cough in a store environment:" this will scare the bejusus outta the grocery store shoppers and workers that are just now trying to take a stand for work place safety, attention Walmart workers/shoppers!

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    • Redgolf Redgolf on Apr 09, 2020

      @JMII Publix here in Tennessee has already added a sneeze guard at the main desk, I wish I could post a picture of it, it's a joke, one piece of plexiglass on the L/H side and one on the R/H side with the center open so that you are within face to face contact with the front desk person, nothing at the checkout counters yet! So a sneeze, cough or hand touch is just a few feet away!Also, no mask required for any of the workers.

  • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Apr 09, 2020

    In Ontario are Premier was previously regarded as something of a Trump 'wannabe'. That has now changed, and even the left wing press are applauding his actions. He personally and without informing the press or his staff went and picked up 30,000 masks on a weekend to bring to a hospital. He reads out the prediction numbers rather than letting others. He differs to the Public Health Authorities. He has praised the efforts of politicians from other parties, members of the press and even his ASL interpreter. Rather than trying to blame others. And he has implemented regulations recommended by public health, closing all non-essential services/stores. In Ontario grocery stores we have a) limited the number of shoppers allowed at any one time, b) decreased shopping hours to allow for more time for sanitizing/restocking, c) some stores have implemented curbside pick-up, d) most stores have installed 'sneeze guard' plexiglass screens at the checkouts, e) implemented fines/charges for stores found to be 'price gouging', f) implemented restrictions on the maximum number of some goods purchased, g) now generally allow only one shopper per family, h) many stores have gone to tap only payments. We have also seen an enormous increase in grocery delivery services.

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    • Dan Dan on Apr 10, 2020

      "He reads out the prediction numbers rather than letting others. He differs to the Public Health Authorities." Pfft. Our leader differs to public health people too.

  • FreedMike Anyone know what the commercial real estate situation is in downtown Detroit? Apparently GM owns the old HA and is leasing the new one.
  • Analoggrotto We should sell california to Canada, they can't manage themselves very well.
  • FreedMike Why, those jackbooted Canuck dare they mandate this?
  • Danny I'm in total agreement that the Biden disaster of pushing electric vehicles caused this problem. We didn't even test this total heavier battery operated vehicles before they hit the market. I am sure with all the crashes with them that the costs and loss of life is greater with the added extreme weight. This winter their were problems with them even charging. Biden cut our nation's throat by stopping our countries oil drilling to push these stupid electric vehicles. These iwners don't even have a clue how expensive it is to replace those batteries in their vehicles. Biden really blew it on pushing this. Even he dies nit in one.
  • YellowDuck Moss Corner (T5) at Mosport.