China's March passenger car sales fell 40.8% from a year earlier to 1.08m units, the China Passenger Car Association said on Thursday (9 April), as efforts to curb the coronavirus epidemic in the country weakened economic activity.

The association told Reuters during an online briefing that overall passenger car sales volume in April would be much higher than in March, however.

In contrast, Western Europe's new car registrations fell by a colossal 52.9% year on year (YoY) last month and the regional annualised selling rate dropped to just 6.6m units a year, according to data released by LMC Automotive.

In Italy, new car sales contracted by 85.4% YoY, while the selling rate plummeted to just 266,000 units a year. March saw Spanish registrations fall 69.3% YoY, with a selling rate of just 361,000 units. Similarly, French new car registrations were down 72.2% YoY, with the selling rate managing just 616,000 units a year. For the UK, sales were 44.4% lower YoY — the selling rate dropped to 1.3m units a year.

In Germany, the selling rate fell to 2.1m units a year, with volumes down 37.7% YoY. 

LMC said the initial weak start to the year for registrations, related to a pull forward into December 2019, has been dwarfed by the devastating impact of the spread of COVID-19. It said its base case assumes a V-shaped recovery once the spread of the virus across the region is brought under control, with selling rates picking up through H2 2020.