While U.S. automakers continue to sales dip due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus, China reported its fourth consecutive month of improved results, sales jumping 16.4% compared with year-ago figures.
It’s not all good news for the world’s largest market. Although sales rose to 2.11 million vehicles last month, the overall numbers are down on a year-to-date tally, falling 12.7% to 12.37 million vehicles, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, or CAAM.
Sales are expected to finish the year down about 10% overall due to the impact of the pandemic, CAAM officials noted, adding that if there is a second wave of infections, that result could double to 20 percent.
One vehicle segment that offered encouragement to observers is new energy vehicles, or NEVs, which saw sales grow for the first time in a year. The segment saw sales rise 19.3% to more than 98,000 vehicles.
“The sales growth shows NEV makers and customers are getting used to the new normal after the government cut subsidies last year,” said Xu Haidong, a senior CAAM official, reported Reuters.
Automakers have been looking at EV sales as a way to get a bigger – and more profitable foothold – in China. General Motors being the latest, introducing a new Buick plug-in hybrid and its first full EV, the Velite 6 PHEV and Velite 7. It will provide more than 480 miles of total driving range, including more than 35 miles electric-only driving. The Velite 7 travels 310 miles on a single charge.
EV maker Tesla has seen sales of its China-only Model 3 built at the Shanghai plant continue to rise. The government has been making it easier for them in recent months as well, changing corporate ownership rules and extending several NEV subsidies to spur sales in the wake of the outbreak.
Despite the moves, CAAM predicts NEV sales of 1.1 million vehicles this year, a drop of around 11% from last year. NEVs include battery-powered electric, plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
During the July sales reporting period, several automakers including Toyota and Honda reported strong sales numbers coming from China. Overall, sales of passenger vehicles rose 8.5%, CAAM reported.
Sales of trucks and other commercial vehicles, which constitute around a quarter of the market, surged 59.4%, driven by government investment in infrastructure as well as tougher emission rules introduced this year.