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Automobiles

China's February auto sales plunge 79%, biggest monthly drop ever

Coronavirus slams demand for vehicles in world's second-largest economy

A pump attendant wears a mask as he refuels a car at a gas station as China is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus in Beijing in February. Auto sales in the country plunged in the month.   © Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) -- Auto sales in China plunged 79.1% in February, marking their biggest ever monthly decline, as a coronavirus outbreak hit demand, data from the country's largest auto industry association showed on Thursday.

Total auto sales in China, the world's biggest auto market, fell to 310,000 units from the same month a year earlier, declining for a twentieth straight month, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said.

The number of new energy vehicles (NEVs) sold contracted for an eighth month in a row.

China's car market has been badly hurt from the outbreak that has killed more than 3,100 people in world's No. 2 economy.

While some Chinese cities are offering incentives to revive car sales, auto production remains limited with carmakers from Toyota Motor to Great Wall reporting big sales drops last month.

CAAM estimates auto sales will drop by more than 10% in the first half of this year, a senior official at the association told Reuters last month, and around 5% for the whole year if the outbreak is effectively contained before April.

The World Health Organization has classified the outbreak as a pandemic. The coronavirus has infected more than 121,000 people in 118 countries while over 4,300 people have died due to it, according to a Reuters tally.

Industry sales fell 8.2% last year, pressured by new emission standards in a shrinking economy and trade tensions with the United States.

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