The automotive world hit the brakes globally last month amid coronavirus lockdowns, but there are signs a recovery is around the corner.
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The coronavirus crisis slammed the brakes on new-car sales around the world in April, as many factories stopped production and showrooms in some countries were forced to close.

Preliminary reports out of India showed zero new cars were delivered, while Italy experienced a 98 per cent decline and France reported an 89 per cent drop.

Most US car companies did not post sales results for April, however industry estimates – based on data from brands who did provide their latest numbers – claim the market slowed by between 40 and 60 per cent after an 80 per cent decline in March.

However, as official April new-car sales figures for Australia are due to be released today (Tuesday), there are signs of a recovery both here and overseas.

The Australian Automotive Dealers Association (AADA) – which represents 60,000 employees at 3500 showrooms nationally – has reported an increase in sales enquiries in the past week or so as various government officials began talking about easing some COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Industry experts in the US and Europe are also reporting that the worst of the rapid sales declines may be over – and there are now concerns about being able to keep up with demand in May after factory shutdowns slowed the supply of new vehicles to sell.

The Bloomberg news agency reported that the biggest car companies in India couldn’t ship a single vehicle to dealers in April as factories and dealerships were ordered to close by the government.

India’s three biggest car companies – Maruti Suzuki (pictured above and below), Mahindra and Hyundai – “recorded no sales last month”, the Bloomberg news agency reported, as all dealers were also forced to close amid the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Automotive News Europe has reported sales in Italy are estimated to have been slashed by 98 per cent – to just 2,182 registrations, down from 107,930 for the same month last year.

New-car sales in France are estimated to have fallen by 89 per cent in April, Automotive News Europe reported, “after a slowdown of 72 per cent in March (due to) forced dealership closures”.

“The lockdown is about to be gradually lifted in Italy, and dealers will be permitted to fully reopen (from) May 4,” Automotive News Europe reported.

“Germany has already allowed showrooms to open, although (new-car dealerships) remain closed in the UK, France and Spain, Europe’s other largest auto markets,” the industry journal reported.

Meanwhile, new-car sales in the US appear to be weathering the storm better than most other major markets – even though some states forced dealerships to close while other states allowed them to remain open.

Automotive News USA reported that Toyota claimed sales fell there by 54 per cent, Hyundai was down by 39 per cent, Mazda slowed by 44 percent, and Honda sales dropped by 54 per cent.

However, the data was limited because most car manufacturers declined to share April sales numbers.

“One positive trend,” Automotive News USA reported, “outlined by (market analysts) JD Power, which had initially expected an 80 per cent decline in April, showed a rebound in retail sales over the course of the month”.

The industry journal reported that new-car sales were down by about 60 per cent the last week of March, “but only by about 40 per cent in the last full week in April”.

The market analyst firm has estimated the entire US car market fell by about 46 per cent in April, however the true figure won’t be revealed until offical data is released at a later date.

Meanwhile, the predictions of the market slowdown in April in Australia vary wildly.

Last week, some industry experts and analysts forecast the April slowdown would be between 40 and 60 per cent.

However, preliminary April sales figures since shared by most Top 15 car companies – Toyota, Mazda and Kia declined to take part – showed most brands were down by between 55 and 75 per cent compared to the same month last year.

The official VFACTS data is due to be released at midday today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, pending any delays.