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German car sales plunge on virus woes

By AFP - Apr 08,2021 - Last updated at Apr 08,2021

In this file photo, taken on February 18, 2021 Mercedes-Benz cars stand in front of a Mercedes-Benz branch in Stuttgart, southern Germany, as Daimler holds the annual press conference as an online event. (AFP photo)

FRANKFURT — New car sales in Germany posted their worst first-quarter performance since national reunification in 1990 owing to the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed on Wednesday.

A total of 656,452 new cars were registered between January and March in Europe's largest car market -- down 6.4 per cent on the same period in 2020 and around 25 per cent lower than in 2019, the KBA transport authority said.

"The first quarter of 2021 was down 16 per cent" on the 10-year average, the VDIK car importers' federation said in a statement.

"There hasn't been a worse first quarter since we started compiling statistics," it added.

Compared with March 2020 when shutdown measures triggered a historic 37.7-per cent plunge in new car sales, registrations climbed last month 35.9 per cent to 292,349 -- still 15 per cent below the pre-crisis level.

"The growth in March only exists on paper," VDIK president Reinhard Zirpel said. 

"We have been confronted with an extremely weak market since the beginning of the year." 

Zirpel said the industry, which is central to the German economy, "did not at all expect the first quarter of 2021 to be even darker than the already extremely bad period the previous year".

Domestic production jumped 29 per cent to 373,900 units in March month-on-month, the VDA said. During the first quarter, it marked an eight-per cent decline.

Exports also decreased by nine per cent during the first quarter compared with the same period in 2020.

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