The French car market fell by 72.2% in March and is expected to drop by 20% over the year, victim of the coronavirus epidemic and measures of containment of the population which slowed down sales.
Since March 17, France has been under lockdown, and all non-essential businesses, including car dealerships, have been closed, as part of the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic. All of the car factories have been shut down.
Logically, vehicle deliveries have plummeted: less than 63,000 new passenger cars registered in March, compared to nearly 226,000 in the same month last year, which however had one more working day, according to figures published Wednesday by the Committee of French Automobile Manufacturers (CCFA).
“This is historic. We never had a drop like this,” commented François Roudier, spokesman for the CCFA. The organization forecasts a 20% drop over the whole year.
“Even in the event of a strong recovery” after confinement, “we will not be able to completely catch up (the considerable drop”) in March and that of April which is already looming for the same reasons.
“The doldrums, the amazement and the unhappiness. For the continuation … it is necessary to imagine strategies of exit of crisis out of the traditional school of thought, because all our usual benchmarks are swept away”, commented on the social network Twitter Xavier Horent , general delegate of the National Council of Automobile Professions (CNPA), which represents 142,000 local businesses within the sector.
“The real question now is, what way out of the crisis for the automotive industry?”, Says Flavien Neuvy, director of the Cetelem Observatoire of the Automobile. “How can manufacturers and public authorities boost sales?” He asked.
Because, once the containment is finished, the restart will be very hard. “On the one hand, individuals will not rush to the dealership to buy a new car. On the other hand, businesses will be weakened and their priority will especially not be to change cars. So all channels will be at stop,” said the expert.
“We absolutely must, without any compromise on the health of our employees, that we prepare for the restart of our factori, probably in the second half of April,” said the boss of the supplier Valeo, Jacques Aschenbroich, on BFM Business.
The idea of an industrial restart, already formulated by PSA and Renault, is currently facing opposition from the unions, but discussions are underway.
The automotive market collapse is global. The rating agency Moody’s forecasts a fall of 14% this year, while the Covid-19 epidemic affects all the major economies, in the wake of China, paralyzing both sales and production.
Western Europe should be the most affected region with a market decline of 21%, ahead of the United States (-15%), China (-10%) and Japan (-8%).
In this context, French groups were affected in March like all their competitors in France. PSA (Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Opel) saw its registrations of new passenger cars plummet (-73.4%), like the Renault group (-71.6%), with Dacia and Alpine, according to figures from CCFA.
With a market so cut, the differences between manufacturers are not representative, “we can not comment on them,” said Mr. Roudier.
In France, the Volkswagen group (with Audi, Skoda, Seat, Porsche), the leading importer, fell 78.9% in March. German high-end brands BMW (with Mini) and Daimler (Mercedes) fell 61.8% and 73.8% respectively.
The Hyundai group (Kia) experienced a slightly less catastrophic fate (-55.1%), as did Toyota (-57.9%). The other major market players, Ford (-80.1%), Fiat Chrysler (-82.5%), Nissan (-75.2%) have completed the grim picture.
The organizers of the Paris Motor Show, a major motor show to be held in early October in Paris, announced on Monday that it would be canceled “in view of the severity of the unprecedented crisis facing the automotive sector”.