With China serving as the flashpoint of the coronavirus outbreak that brought the world down a peg or two, industry and financial analysts have been watching that market like a hawk. The country went into this crisis before any other, which may prove useful for predicting the general path of global recovery efforts.
Unfortunately, specious reports about the number of infected citizens inside that nation have cast a double-quilted blanket of doubt over its official statistics. We don’t actually know if the Chinese government has effectively wrangled the illness or is just hoping to win an international public relations battle. Fortunately, infection rates and death tolls aren’t the only metrics we have to rely on.
According to the China Passenger Car Association, auto sales plummeted by as much as 96 percent since COVID-19 began its relentless spread. This came after months of negative sales growth, leaving the Chinese market in a truly unenviable situation once mandatory quarantines were enacted. Now, circumstances have changed. Showrooms are reopening and many factories have resumed operations, only this time they’re the ones that have to worry about supply chain issues.
With the novel coronavirus forcing the economy to grind to a halt, just about every industry on Earth is affected, almost all negatively. The auto industry is no exception.
Production is halting around the world, and it seems likely that car dealers will be closing, either voluntarily or via government order, at some point soon – at least on the sales side (vehicle service is arguably essential).
People are being ordered to stay home, people are losing their jobs, and with a few exceptions – say a first-responder who absolutely needs a car right now – there will be almost no vehicle sales, new or used, for the next two months or longer.
Even as bad as things got in 2007-2009, sales never ground to a halt.
Detroit Free Press reports the U.S. Treasury lost $11.2 billion in taxpayer money from the rescue of General Motors back in 2008, up from the $10.3 billion estimated after the agency sold its remaining shares back in early December 2013. Part of the final figure came as a write-off of an $826 million “administrative claim,” which was found in a report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The overall figure pales in comparison to the $50.2 billion given by both Bush and Obama administrations between 2008 and 2009 to GM as the automaker struggled through its financial crisis at the onset of the Great Recession.
The 3 billion euro ($4.1 billion USD) three-way deal between PSA Peugeot Citroen, Dongfeng and the French government, signed this week, is set to inject new capital and a much needed life extension for Peugeot, though at the expense of the Peugeot family ceding control after two centuries.
Nissan. Cadillac. Chevrolet. All brag about being the Lord of the ‘Ring, upsetting the German automakers to no end. Yet, one of them may still have the last laugh through the act of saving the Nürburgring from certain doom.