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March auto sales fell in major markets as coronavirus continued to spread

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March auto sales fell in major markets as coronavirus continued to spread

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic continued to hit new vehicle sales in March as major auto markets — including the U.S. and Europe — posted double-digit declines year over year, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis.

US new vehicle sales drop YOY in March

New vehicle sales dropped year over year in the U.S. as measures to stop the spread of the virus have shut down production sites across the country and kept consumers at home.

The overall non-seasonally adjusted U.S. vehicle sales declined 37.7% to 992,392 units in March from 1.60 million units a year ago, according to data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Passenger car sales in the U.S. for the period dropped 45.5% to 262,981 units from 482,556 units in the year-ago period. Sales of trucks, minivans and SUVs for the period totaled 729,411 units, down 34.7% from 1.12 million units in March 2019.

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Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. sold 135,730 vehicles in March, down 36.9% from the year-ago period. Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s U.S. sales sank 48% year over year to 77,153 units. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and General Motors Co., which no longer report monthly sales figures, said in quarterly reports that the outbreak hit sales in March.

Europe auto sales more than halved in March

Car sales across Europe plunged 51.8% as the coronavirus lockdown measures took hold, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

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New car registrations, or sales, declined in March to 853,077 units, from 1.77 million units in March 2019, association data for the EU, European Free Trade Association and the U.K. shows. The European Free Trade Association includes Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

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All major European markets saw a double-digit decline during the month, with Italy posting the biggest year-over-year drop in registrations at 85.4%.

Sales in France were down 72.2%, while Spain posted a 69.3% decline.

Among the European Free Trade Association countries, Switzerland reported a decrease of 39.4%, while Norway saw registrations drop 32.2%.

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Major auto manufacturers also reported sales declines for March.

Volkswagen AG's registrations plunged 43.6% in March to 233,240 units. The company's Volkswagen brand posted a 47.5% drop in sales, while the Audi brand's registrations declined by 43.8%.

French automaker Peugeot SA's sales dropped 66.9% year over year to 94,175 units, as sales of its Peugeot brand slid 64.3%.

Sales at Renault SA fell 63.7% to 65,846 as sales of the company's Renault brand fell 64.4% year over year.

Sales decline in Japan, China

Auto sales in Japan suffered in March as the coronavirus outbreak took its toll on the demand, while sales in China improved from February.

Sales of new vehicles in Japan dropped by 8.9% from a year earlier as Toyota and Honda Motor posted a decrease in sales for March.

Sales totaled 485,207 vehicles during the month, down from 532,506 vehicles in the year-ago period, data from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association shows.

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Toyota sold 160,374 vehicles during the month, down from 164,505 vehicles sold in March 2019. Honda Motor sold 72,250 units in March, less than the 82,230 vehicles it sold in the year-ago period.

Elsewhere, auto sales in China fell 43.3% in March from a year earlier to 1.43 million units, data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers shows. Sales had declined by 79.1% in February.

China's passenger car sales declined 48.4% year over year to 1.04 million units in March.

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