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Renault SA posted a plunge in first quarter sales and said it’s impossible to judge the impact the coronavirus will have on results as the pandemic clobbers the auto industry.

Revenue fell 19% to 10.1 billion euros ($10.9 billion), the carmaker, based near Paris, said in a statement Thursday. Renault’s unit sales in Europe tumbled 36%, compared with a 26% decline in the market. The low-cost Dacia brand showed the biggest drop.

Key Insights

The slump in sales shows the depths of the hole the carmaker, and much of the industry, finds itself in after the pandemic closed plants and showrooms. Renault is seeking billions in government-backed loans from the French state, its most powerful shareholder, which has pledged to help. To clear the way, Renault scrapped its dividend earlier this month.

The company’s liquidity reserves fell by 5.5 billion euros to 10.3 billion euros in the quarter.

The automaker is beginning to reopen factories in France this week, even though some unions have expressed opposition. It has already restarted operations at plants in Morocco, Spain, Portugal and Russia. The company says it “undertakes to restart commercial and production activities in countries where safety and regulatory conditions permit and will implement all necessary measures to respond effectively to commercial demand".

(Also read: Renault India launches 'Book Online, Pay Later' campaign to boost sales)

Renault scrapped its 2020 targets in March and said Thursday the impact the pandemic will have on results is “still not possible to assess."

The pandemic hit when Renault was already suffering from slumping sales in key markets and a dismal performance at partner Nissan Motor Co. The carmakers, linked in an uneasy alliance for the past two decades, have been dogged by infighting and instability since the arrest of former leader Carlos Ghosn in late 2018. Renault’s next CEO, Luca de Meo, doesn’t take the helm until July.

Market Context

Renault has declined 62% since the year began, the worst performance in the Stoxx Europe 600 Automobiles & Parts index. It’s market value has dwindled to 4.7 billion euros.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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