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European car sales suffer worst plunge ever in pandemic

MILAN: European car sales plunged by nearly a quarter last year as the pandemic provoked the worst crisis ever to hit the capital-intensive industry.

New car registrations sank by 23.7%, or 3 million vehicles, to 9.9 million units, according to new figures released Tuesday by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association. It said lockdowns and other restrictions “had an unprecedented impact on car sales across Europe.”

All major markets recorded double-digit declines, down 32.3% in Spain, 28% in Italy and 25% in France. Germany suffered a more contained 19% drop.

December sales were just 3.3% lower than the previous year, but performance varied drastically between markets. Italy and Spain both had double-digit dips, Germany gained 10% while Spain was flat.

Germany’s Volkswagen shed 3% in market share, while gains were posted by PSA Peugeot and Fiat Chrysler — which on Monday officially launched as a new merged entity — as well as Toyota.

Nokia to allow employees to work remotely for three days a week

Nokia said its employees can choose to work up to three days a week remotely with increased support for flexible working hours from January after its current work from home policy comes to an end in December.

The Finnish telecom equipment maker conducted a survey of its employees at the end of last year and a majority said they wanted to work two to three days per week remotely, up from an average of two days before the coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic forced organisations to change. Technology gave people the tools to innovate. In many cases, the results have been too good to go back to the old way of doing things,” Chief Executive Pekka Lundmark said.

The company, which had about 92,000 employees in 130 countries at the end of 2020, said in March it plans to cut up to 10,000 jobs within two years to trim costs and invest more in research capabilities.

Nokia plans to redesign offices to allocate up to 70% of the space in some sites to teamwork and meetings, with less area reserved for workspaces.

Offices in Dallas, Singapore and Budapest have already been reconfigured, with further sites expected to be completed by the end of the year as Nokia follows companies worldwide in opting for more hybrid working in the wake of the pandemic.

Carmaker Renault and Stellantis, the maker of Peugeot and Citroen cars, has made agreements with workers to allow employees to work from home for up to three days a week.