Ford’s first-quarter China vehicle sales down 35% as coronavirus hits demand

FILE PHOTO: Chinese national flag flies on the roof of a Ford car dealership in Beijing

BEIJING (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co <F.N> said on Thursday that its China vehicle sales in the first three months this year fell 34.9% from a year earlier to 88,770 units, as the novel coronavirus epidemic hit demand in the world’s biggest auto market.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based company said, however, all its dealers in China had resumed work and its sales in March had returned to 75% of the same period last year.

In China, Ford makes cars through Jiangling Motors Corp Ltd (JMC) <000550.SZ>, in which it has a stake, and a joint venture with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co Ltd <000625.SZ>.

Ford has been trying to revive sales in China after its business began slumping in late 2017. Sales sank 26% in 2019, after a 37% drop in 2018. In 2017, its China sales fell 6% from a year earlier.

China’s auto sales dropped 8% in 2019 and are expected to fall more than 5% this year. Overall auto sales slumped 42.4% in the first quarter.

Sales of Ford’s larger U.S. rival, General Motors Co <GM.N>, dropped 43.3% in China in the first quarter.

(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Toby Chopra, Robert Birsel)