March 25 (UPI) -- U.S. auto sales will likely be down more than 15 percent this year as spending slows amid the coronavirus pandemic, British research firm IHS Markit said in a global research update Wednesday.
The percentage represents a decline in vehicles sold compared to 2019.
The firm projects U.S. consumers will buy about 14.4 million vehicles in 2020, a drop of 2.4 million compared to IHS Markit's prior forecast for the year.
Worldwide, researchers project a "sharp reduction in near-term growth followed by a slow recovery." Global auto sales are expected to drop by more than 12 percent compared to 2019, with 78.8 million units sold.
"A fall of 12 percent for 2020 would be considerably worse than the two-year peak-to-trough decline of 8.0 percent during the global recession in 2008/2009," IHS Markit said in a statement.
Mainland China could see a drop of 10 percent, while Western and Central Europe could have a 14.6 percent reduction.
The projections come as the world economy slows amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Countries across the globe have issued restrictions on movement and activities -- including some shelter-in-place orders -- to limit the spread of the virus.
According to Johns Hopkins University, COVID-19 has killed more than 20,000 people and sickened more than 450,000 internationally.
The markets have fluctuated in reaction to the pandemic, with some of the largest losses since the 2008 financial crisis. U.S. stock indices, however, answered with substantial gains on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Last week, the "big three" U.S. automakers -- Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors -- agreed with the United Auto Workers union to rotate partial shutdowns at the plants to protect workers from the virus.