Some consumers in Wuhan are now even more willing to buy a car than before the virus crisis, as they see personal vehicles as safer than public transport, said Pan Fei, a marketing director at the Wuchang Audi shop. Demand at the store is now skewed toward smaller vehicles such as the A3, suggesting some families are buying second vehicles.
Back to pre-shutdown
In a nearby Cadillac dealership, sales representative Xia Tianyi said foot traffic and sales have returned to pre-shutdown levels. The store has seen a pickup in first-time buyers, with health-care professionals such as doctors now among those purchasing personal vehicles, Xia said.
Nationwide, the weekly retail car sales numbers have been improving for more than a month, after dropping as much as 96 percent during the crisis. In each of the first three weeks of March, declines moderated to 50 percent, 44 percent and 40 percent, respectively, according to the China Passenger Car Association, which said Thursday that nationwide sales for the whole of March were down 40 percent from a year earlier. The group predicted that weekly sales will rebound to last year’s levels by the end of April.
About 99 percent of China’s showrooms had resumed operation as of April 3, with consumer traffic at the outlets rebounding to about 66 percent of normal levels, according to China Automobile Dealers Association.
To be sure, a sustainable rebound in China is far from certain and the latest numbers simply reflect the depth of the recent slump. The biggest market in the world was paralyzed by the outbreak, with factories and dealerships shuttered and people ordered to stay home.
Now such restrictions have been loosened, and the government has also introduced stimulus measures to spur vehicle sales. Such move may have a short-term positive effect, but it’s unclear whether they help increase the underlying long-term demand.
Yet some manufacturers are cautiously positive. BMW AG said on April 6 it saw a reversal in demand trends in March “pointing to a sustainable recovery” in China.
“We are reacting to the globally challenging sales situation caused by the corona pandemic and are flexibly adapting our production volume to demand,” BMW sales head Pieter Nota said in a statement. “In China, we are seeing the first signs of recovery with a strong order intake.”