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UPDATE 1-Mexican auto sales to fall by at least a quarter as coronavirus bites

(Recasts with expected sales drop)

MEXICO CITY, April 6 (Reuters) - Mexico’s total auto sales this year are seen sliding by at least a quarter, according to a trade group forecast issued Monday, as the key industry’s output and exports are also seen falling by double-digits last month due to coronavirus economic fallout.

Mexico’s auto distributors association AMDA expects sales of all new vehicles made in the country to drop by at least 25.5% in 2020 to reach some 982,000 vehicles - or more than 330,000 units less than the previous year - which would also be similar to sales during the 2009 financial crisis.

“This is just a first attempt to visualize the Mexican market’s behavior in the midst of this crisis,” said AMDA head Guillermo Rosales.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s auto production and exports plummeted in March, according to data released on Monday from the national statistics agency INEGI, as demand dried up and car makers halted their production lines due to the pandemic.

Production fell 24.6% in March versus the same month last year to reach 261,805 units, while exports tumbled 11.9% to 285,075 units.

The Mexican Automotive Industry Association AMIA estimates that the automotive industry makes up about 4% of the country’s gross domestic product and generates nearly 1 million direct jobs. (Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Sharay Angulo Editing by Alistair Bell and Nick Zieminski)