BEIJING (Reuters) - Retail sales of passenger cars in China crumbled 92% 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 epidemic is hitting the world's biggest auto market.
"Very few dealerships opened in the first weeks of February and they have had very little customer traffic," it said.
Mainland China recorded 889 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection on Thursday. The death toll also rose by 118 to 2,236, mostly in the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan where the outbreak began, and which remains under virtual lockdown.
China's auto market is likely to see sales slide more than 10% in the first half of the year due to the coronavirus epidemic, and around 5% for the whole year, provided the epidemic is effectively contained before April, the country's top auto industry body, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), told Reuters last week.
To stabilise 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.
(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Christopher Cushing)