While the U.S. and China continue to try to work through their differences on a new trade agreement, the two largest automotive markets in the world remain in lockstep as China’s new vehicle sales in mirrored those of the U.S. in September: down.
Total auto sales fell 5.2% compared with the year-ago period, down to 2.27 million vehicles, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) reported Monday. U.S. auto sales were also down during September, falling more than double that of China’s reported decline at 12%.
China’s sales fell 6.9% in August and 4.3% in July. Sales are down for the year, expected to drop about 5%, according to CAAM’s estimate, although the numbers were expected to rise in the second half of this year. This far, that hasn’t been the case.
The rebound was expected to begin in September and October. In fact, the two months are nicknamed “Golden September, Silver October” by China’s auto insiders, because they are typically the high season for auto sales in the country, as customers typically buy vehicles after summer is over.
The association had previously said it expected sales in the second half to improve, but that overall annual sales would fall 5% year-on-year to 26.68 million vehicles in 2019.
“Sales have risen in the second half, but they have not hit expectations and the pace has been slow,” said Chen Shihua, CAAM assistant secretary general.
Annual sales in China have fallen each of the last two years, after decades of double-digit growth. The U.S. market has behaved similarly in recent years, including last year’s down result and the expectation of a slower market this year as well.
In China, sales have been hampered due to industry changes implemented by the government.
According to Reuters, 15 cities and provinces which account for over 60% of car sales in China implemented new vehicle emission standards earlier than the central government’s 2020 deadline. This hurt new vehicle sales gas- and diesel-powered vehicles, according to CAAM, analysts, dealers and consumers.
China has been leading the charge for the development, sale and purchase of what they call New Energy Vehicles, or NEVs, which are largely battery-electric and fuel-cell vehicles. However, the financial incentives that the government offered, which really helped to drive sales, for so long have been scaled back.
Sales of new energy vehicles fell 34.2% in September after a 15.8% decline in August, CAAM said. NEV sales jumped almost 62% last year as the broader auto market contracted.