The global AC market during the Covid-19 pandemic

Exports and sales declined in most world markets in the first quarter of 2020. As the epicentre of the epidemic shifts, some markets are managing to rebound while others are likely to register a significant decline for the year 2020.


Despite the warm weather in many parts of the world this spring, sales have been disastrous for the air conditioning (AC) market in Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, the United States, according to JARN. [1] Nevertheless, there may be a chance of a rebound, should the pandemic situation improve.


In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government took social isolation measures from April 1 to April 22. Consequently, AC sales in April 2020 were only half the level of April 2019. In May 2020, the demand for AC was boosted by the warm weather and by the postponement of purchases from April to May, resulting in sales growth of more than 35% year-on-year.

However, the rebound did not apply to all air-conditioning systems. Indeed, the pandemic slowed down large-scale projects in hotels, resorts, office buildings, restaurants, shopping malls and entertainment facilities. As a result, sales of commercial air conditioners such as packaged air conditioners and variable refrigerant flow (VRF) air conditioners continue to decline.

The United States

In March 2020, sales initially increased because there were concerns about a supply shortage. By April 2020 however, sales were 64.8% lower than in April 2019. The summer heat wave in some states led to a partial resumption of sales in May 2020, especially for products which do not require installation such as portable ACs.

As the coronavirus infection rate has not yet improved in most US states, it seems unlikely that AC sales will resume this year. JARN estimates that US air-conditioning market will shrink by about 15% in 2020.


In January and February 2020, sales of ACs in India showed double-digit growth compared to last year. In preparation of the summer season, a large inventory was stocked up, which then remained unsold due to the COVID-related lockdown.

Although manufacturers are expecting negative growth this year, the domestic segment could still grow after the health crisis, thanks to potential buyers from the middle-class. This population has additional disposable income that has been saved due to lockdown. They could spend it on products that would enhance the experience of staying home such as televisions or ACs.

Moreover, India’s AC industry could take advantage of the current pandemic to encourage local production and the relocation of manufacturing operations out of China.


At the beginning of February 2020, Chinese manufacturers were in complete shutdown due to the pandemic. In the first quarter of 2020, AC exports declined by 9.1% in volume and 15.4% in value, compared with the first quarter of 2019.

When comparing export destinations, the situation is more nuanced. The volume of exports to Asia increased by 4.8% year-on-year, while exports to other destinations declined: from only 1% decline in Europe to over 25% in North America and Africa.

With the shift of the epidemic epicentre, China’s exports are likely to fluctuate, with occasional rebounds.

[1] JARN June 25, 2020