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Honda's China sales drop 85% in February amid coronavirus crisis

Japanese automaker sees largest ever single-month decline

While Honda Motor has reopened about 80% of its sales outlets in China, demand for new cars remains sluggish. (Photo by Takashi Kawakami)

GUANGZHOU -- Japanese automaker Honda announced on Friday its car sales in China fell 85.1% in February, marking its largest ever single-month decline as the coronavirus epidemic hit business hard.

Many of Honda's sales outlets in China were forced to close in early February due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus. As consumers have refrained from going out even after operations resumed, sales for automakers have not yet recovered.

Honda sold 11,288 new cars in February. The 85.1% year-on-year drop easily topped the previous record, a 53.5% dive recorded in Oct. 2012 amid friction between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands dispute.

According to Honda, although about 80% of the 1,200 dealers in China had resumed operations as of Feb. 6, demand remained sluggish. A salesperson at a store in Guangzhou city said, "Sales of the entire auto industry, not just our store, have dropped. So we have started reducing prices slightly, and increasing discounts for some models."

Honda's year-on-year sales drop was its first in two months, while Japanese peers Mazda and Mitsubishi Motors both logged such falls for two consecutive months. Mazda recorded a 79.0% decline, and Mitsubishi Motors logged a 90.7%fall for the month of February.

Earlier on Wednesday, Toyota announced its sales in China fell 70.2% compared to the previous year, registering its own largest monthly decline since at least 2000. Nissan will announce its February sales result soon.

According to the China Passenger Car Industry Association, car sales in February were down about 80% year-on-year. "It's a serious anomaly and the biggest fall in the last 20 years," it said.

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