In March, the coronavirus outbreak was first felt in car sales. The Netherlands still got off with a 23.4 percent drop, because elsewhere the number of registrations completely collapsed.

In Italy, an increase of 85 percent was recorded in March with 28,326 new vehicles. This was not very surprising, as the country was locked in early that month in the fight against the spread of the corona virus.

Virtually all major brands saw sales drop sharply, often by more than 85 percent. Only Tesla managed to escape the malaise with an increase of 58 percent to 424 copies.

In France, the number of registrations fell by 72 percent to 62,688. Among the volume brands, DS, the luxury brand of the PSA Group, performed least poorly with a decrease of 38 percent.

Hard hit Spain saw car sales plummet by 69 percent. Ultimately, 37,644 new vehicles were registered. Here, too, no manufacturer was able to record a plus. With a drop of 37 percent, Tesla kept the damage relatively limited.

DS performed least poorly in France with a 38 percent drop. (Photo: DS)

Plug cars in demand in United Kingdom

Although sales in Germany were lower in March, with a drop of 38 percent, the eastern neighbors fared less badly than elsewhere in Europe. Market leader Volkswagen recorded a drop of 28 percent, while number two Mercedes-Benz saw sales drop by 21 percent.

At BMW, Germany's number three, the number of registrations fell by 21 percent. Tesla and Lexus performed best with a decrease of 4.4 and 2.8 percent respectively.

In the UK, sales slumped 44.4 percent in March. Compared to the same month a year earlier, considerably more plug-in cars were sold.

Sales of plug-in hydride powertrain models rose 38 percent to 6,818 units, while registrations of all-electric cars rose 197.4 percent to 11,694 units.

Electric cars did well in the UK despite everything. (Photo: Audi)

'Biggest crisis ever'

According to the European trade association ACEA, at least 1.11 million of the 13.8 million people employed in the car industry are affected. This not only concerns employees of car brands, but also people who work for suppliers.

According to ACEA Director-General Eric-Mark Huitema, the coronavirus outbreak is the biggest crisis the industry has ever faced.

On Monday, ahead of negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union, the industry association called for a trade agreement that takes into account the importance of the car industry for both the EU and the United Kingdom.

The trade represents an annual volume of three million vehicles and a value of 54 billion euros. The trade in auto parts is worth another 14 billion euros.

1.11 million workers are affected by the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo: ACEA)

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The coronavirus in short

  • The coronavirus mainly spreads from person to person via sneezing and cough drops. The chance of becoming infected through surfaces such as door handles is small. This chance decreases if you wash your hands often.
  • You can considerably reduce the chance of spreading by keeping at least 1.5 meters away from others.
  • The corona measures have resulted in an infected person infecting less than one other person on average. Previously, this so-called reproduction number was between two and three.
  • The vast majority of patients have mild (flu-like) complaints.
  • Almost all deaths involve the elderly or other vulnerable persons, such as heart, lung or diabetes patients. If everyone complies with the measures, this reduces their risks.
  • Read here what precautions you should take.