New passenger vehicle sales in China plunged by 92% in the first two weeks of February, according to the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA).

With a number of major cities under lockdown in response to the recent outbreak of the COVID19 coronavirus, business activity in much of the country ground to a virtual halt in early February.

Travel within China and flights in and out of the country have been severely curtailed, while streets in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai remain deserted and consumers are simply not spending on anything other than the bare necessities.

Car dealers across the country have complained of a dearth of business activity including very little in the way of showroom visits. The CPCA said the first week in February was the worst with sales falling by 96% year on year with daily sales nationwide averaging just 811 units.

Business picked up in the second week with daily sales averaging 4,098 units, equivalent to an 89% year on year decline.

The association expected business to improve in the second half of February, with sales over the entire month expected to decline by 70%, resulting in a 40% drop in the first two months of the year.

Meanwhile, the business lockdown in Hubei province, the epicentre of the virus outbreak, has been extended until 10 March to help slow the spread of infection.