Report: China auto sales rise to fresh monthly high, helped by tax cuts, stimulus

By Elaine Kurtenbach, Gaea News Network
Friday, May 8, 2009

Report: China car sales rise to fresh monthly high

SHANGHAI — China’s passenger car sales likely rose to a record monthly high of 1.15 million units in April, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday, citing industry figures.

Official figures from the government-affiliated China Association of Automobile Manufacturers are due within days.

But the association routinely releases its data in advance to China’s state-run media. Data reported Thursday suggest that sales in China once again outpaced those in the United States.

U.S. auto sales fell 34 percent in April from a year earlier to 820,000. That was about 38,000 fewer than in March but still a big improvement over January’s 27-year low.

After slowing late last year as the impact from the global financial crisis deepened, China’s auto sales have risen for five straight months. In March, sales hit a monthly record high of 1.11 million units.

Sales in April rose 5 percent from a year earlier, Xinhua reported.

China bypassed Japan to become the world’s second biggest market for new vehicles in 2006. With its 1.3 billion population, China was bound to overtake the U.S., and the sharp downturn in American sales has accelerated that trend.

“In terms of total vehicle sales, China now is No. 1. There is no doubt that this year China can be the No. 1 market,” said Yale Zhang, an auto analyst at CSM Worldwide.

CSM forecasts that China’s auto sales will rise by about 6.4 percent in 2009, to about 10.3 million.

Tax cuts and subsidies for purchases of small, fuel-efficient vehicles have helped boost sales of minivans and other economy models.

Shanghai-GM-Wuling, General Motors Corp.’s minivehicle joint venture, and Changan Automotive Co. both saw sales surge more than 50 percent year-on-year in April, the report said.

It said sales in China by Chery Automobile Co., a leading independent automaker, hit a monthly high of 42,000.

Trucks and buses make up a larger share of China’s total vehicle sales than those of the United States or Japan, making direct comparisons somewhat misleading.

And despite the most recent trends, China may well yield its place as the leading auto market in coming months, especially if the American market rebounds as the U.S. economy recovers.

“Within two years, the U.S. market may be back to 15 million units a year in sales, and China will still be No. 2,” Zhang said.

“This is not that meaningful, it’s just a game of numbers,” he said.

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