China’s Passenger Car Sales Tumble 92% in First Half of Feb. Due to Virus Outbreak

China’s Passenger Car Sales Tumble 92% in First Half of Feb. Due to Virus Outbreak
A building of the Geely Auto Research Institute is seen in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, China, on Aug. 4, 2017. (Aly Song/Reuters)

BEIJING—Retail sales of passenger cars in China crumbled 92 percent on an annual basis in the first 16 days of February, according to China Passenger Car Association (CPCA), as the coronavirus outbreak slammed the brakes on businesses across the country.

China’s passenger vehicle sales recorded 4,909 units in the first 16 days, down from 59,930 vehicles in the same period a year earlier, data from CPCA showed, the first major figures to demonstrate just how hard the outbreak is hitting the world’s biggest auto market.

Strict public health measures to contain its spread have severely disrupted business and consumer activity.

“Very few dealerships opened in the first weeks of February and they have had very little customer traffic,” it said.

China’s auto market is likely to see sales slide more than 10 percent in the first half of the year due to the coronavirus outbreak, and around 5 percent for the whole year, provided the outbreak is effectively contained before April, the country’s top auto industry body, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), told Reuters last week.

To stabilize the market, where more than 25 million vehicles were sold last year, China’s commerce ministry said it will introduce more measures to boost auto consumption.

Geely Starts Online Auto Sales

Geely has launched a service for customers to buy cars online and get them delivered directly to their homes, in a bid to drum up sales as the coronavirus outbreak prompts buyers to stay away from showrooms.

Other carmakers like Tesla and Mercedes-Benz have also started to promote products heavily online in recent weeks as the health crisis escalated and authorities warned people to stay away from public places.

Consumers can order and customize their cars on Geely’s website, it said in a statement. It will also offer test drives where potential consumers will be able to arrange a drive starting from their home address in coordination with local dealerships.

Victor Yang, a senior official at Geely, told Reuters promoting online sales will allow automakers to directly reach customers through sales and marketing and help them build experience should they want to continue to do so in future.

Geely, which is China’s most globally-known automaker thanks to its investment in Volvo and Daimler, said that car production in February is around one-third of its usual monthly output, but around 90 percent of workers will return to work by the end of this month, Yang said, adding the automaker has bought facial masks for workers and dealers.

Geely has partnered with third-party online sales platforms including Tmall,, and in the past but it is the first time the Zhejiang-based automaker is selling cars through its website. Tesla, which is building cars from its $2 billion factory in Shanghai, has been promoting online sales for years.