Light vehicle sales in the US fell nearly 39% in March compared with last year, according to industry sales data emerging today.

Data from Ward’s shows that 992,392 light vehicles were sold last month, also a sharp drop on February’s 1.4 million, according to Ward’s.

The sharp drop to US vehicle sales last month was widely expected as social distancing and lockdown measures took hold in the US in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Analysts say the sales trend worsened during the course of the month as the COVID-19 crisis deepened.

The seasonally adjusted annualised rate for US cars and light trucks sales was estimated at 11.4 million units, down from 16.8 million units in February, Ward’s reported.

The coronavirus crisis is causing government induced recessions across the world, with new car sales and the automotive sector hit particularly hard.

GlobalData forecasts in its base case scenario that the US light vehicle market in 2020 will be around 14.7 million units – a drop of almost 14% on 2019’s total. The next few months are expected to be particularly weak, with a strong pick-up to vehicle sales in the third quarter forecast, as economic activity returns and population movement controls are relaxed.

More: US car market crash points to tough times ahead