Global light vehicle sales are forecast to fall 22 percent to 70.3 million units this year in the wake of COVID-19, according to the most recent analysis from IHS Markit.
“The unexpected and sudden nature of the impacts of the pandemic are hitting the autos sector hard, with unprecedented levels of uncertainty around prospects for meaningful global recovery,” said Colin Couchman, executive director, global autos demand forecasting at IHS Markit.
“Market fortunes are expected to be mixed, as delayed and destroyed demand interacts with massive global supply disruption,” he said.
Impacts vary around the world.
Though most factories are back to work, IHS Markit forecasters caution that it will take time for plants to fully recover, especially as revised COVID-19 working practices make it virtually impossible to rebound to previous operational capacity, among weakened demand conditions.
Mainland China is expected to have a sales decline of more than 15.5 percent year over year, to 21 million units, with concerns on secondary impacts from the global contagion, which could further disrupt the recovery.
While nearly all dealers across mainland China are back to work, and there are signs of an encouraging uptick in showroom traffic, consumer confidence remains fragile. So far, 12 cities have introduced various incentives to spur sales, including New Energy Vehicle subsidies, scrappage incentives and increased license plate quotas.
The U.S. light vehicle market is expected to decline 26.6 percent from 2019 levels to 12.5 million units this year. This is on the heels of a rough first quarter as COVID-19 began to impact key states and stay-at-home orders have prevented dealers from a traditional sales effort with shuttered showrooms.
While online sales are allowed for most states, declines have been substantial, though inventories remain high.
Across western and central Europe, IHS Markit forecasts a 24.9 percent drop in light vehicle sales, to 13.6 million units for the year. European markets will experience mixed recovery cycles, based on local restrictions and guidance, together with varied economic support and stimulus provision.
COVID-19 lockdowns remain in place across Europe, especially in Italy, Spain, France, and the UK with dealerships shuttered. The timetable for ending lockdown restrictions varies, with some countries considering extending provisions, while others have revealed cautious exit strategies. Markets to watch for grassroots of recovery include Germany, Denmark, Austria and the Czech Republic.
Production Expected to Reflect Demand Levels
Global light vehicle production is expected to drop 21.2 percent due to COVID-19 – an 18.8 million unit decline over 2019, according to the latest IHS Markit forecasts. The biggest disruption is expected to hit in the first half of the year, with output in Q1 expected to be down by 24 percent year over year and in Q2 by 44 percent as lockdown measures intensify. The balance of the year is forecast to ease, but overall, the second half of the year is expected to be down by nearly 8 percent, compared to an overall decline of 35 percent in the first half.