Jaguar Land Rover suffered an 85% slump in sales in China last month as the coronavirus kept buyers indoors and most dealerships shut.

The premium car manufacturer, which is owned by India’s Tata Motors, added that the significant spread of the virus in South Korea, Japan and Italy would also impact sales in those markets.

Earlier this month, Ralf Speth, JLR’s outgoing chief executive, said that for a period last month the company was making no sales at all in China.

“In the first half of the month about 20% of dealers were open which has since improved to now over 80%, although most are still operating with reduced staffing and facilities,” Tata said on Friday. “Jaguar Land Rover expects this to improve over the course of March, however, retail sales are expected to recover more gradually.”

The company said staff had been returning to work and its Shanghai plant reopened the week of 24 February. “Production will be ramped up as the number of employees returning to work and demand increases,” it added.

Earlier this month the car maker admitted it had been forced to fly parts such as key fobs in suitcases to counter the disruption to its global supply chain.

“Suppliers in China are resuming operations but remain below full capacity,” the company said on Friday. “Jaguar Land Rover’s supply chain is primarily based in Europe and the UK, with a relatively small percentage of direct parts from China.”

However, the company warned the threat of a parts shortage still remained.

“In the event of specific parts shortages, Jaguar Land Rover would ordinarily be able to still build cars and retrofit missing parts when available,” the company said. “However, we cannot rule out the risk that a shortage of a critical component could impact production at some point.”

Earlier this week it emerged that overall car sales in China, the world’s biggest automotive market, fell by 80% last month due to the coronavirus. Nearly all car dealerships remained shut in February and those that were open saw “barely anybody” come to look at vehicles as people stayed away from public places, according to the industry body China Passenger Car Association.

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