Chinese auto market witnesses robust rebound

By Wang Zheng, People’s Daily

China’s auto production and sales volume hit 2.85 million and 2.77 million in November last year, up 9.6 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively, and marking a growth for eight consecutive months. It was also the seventh month in a row for China to see a double-digit growth in auto sales.

The thriving business of Chinese automaker Changan Auto was an epitome of the robust recovery of China’s auto market. The company sold nearly 114,000 passenger vehicles in November, registering a year-on-year growth of 36.4 percent, said Huang Lejin, general manager of the company’s production base in Hefei, east China’s Anhui province, where around 400 robotic arms are welding vehicle parts and over 100 automatic guided vehicles hustling among production lines every day.

The smart factory has created 1,700 jobs since last August and been kept running 24 hours a day on three shifts, according to the general manager.

China’s auto market was on a roller coaster the last year, said Ye Shengji, deputy secretary general of China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). The industry forecasted an annual plunge of over 25 percent in last February, but the de facto production and sales in the first 11 months of 2020 were 22.37 million and 22.47 million, down by 3 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively, Ye introduced, saying both reductions were narrowed around 14 percentage points from those in the January-June period.

Executive vice chairman and secretary general of the CAAM Fu Bingfeng told People’s Daily that China’s annual auto production might exceed 25 million in 2020, and the year-on-year decrease is expected to be narrowed to less than 2 percent, a performance much better than the expectation earlier last year. It showcased the strong capability of China’s auto industry, as well as the country’s economic resilience, he said.

“A series of forceful measures made possible the resumption of work, production and market, which offset the impacts from COVID-19,” Fu noted. China was one of the few highlights of the global auto market last year, accounting for 33 percent of the total global auto sales.

According to statistics, major auto markets such as the U.S., Japan and Spain saw their sales contract 17.3 percent, 14.7 percent, 37.0 percent, respectively in the first 10 months of last year, while the Chinese auto market declined only 4.7 percent in the same period.

Meanwhile, major auto groups delivered eye-catching performance in the Chinese market, and the Chinese market has taken a larger share in their global sales data.

The CAAM forecasted that the auto market would be on a steady rise this year, and remain stable in the next five years. Auto production is projected to hit 30 million by 2025.

Qi Yunwu, a man from Kunming, capital of southwest China’s Yunnan province bought a new energy vehicle (NEV) last December. The car was officially priced at 35,800 yuan ($5,540) and enjoyed a subsidy of 3,000 yuan from local government. Besides, as a car fueled by new energy, it also enjoys free parking at state-owned parking lots, and is exempted from traffic restriction rules.

Shen Yunxiao, vice general manager of SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co., told People’s Daily that over 100,000 NEVs of the company were sold during promotional campaigns aiming to boost the sales of NEVs in rural areas last year.

Such promotional campaigns were launched by multiple departments and joined by 61 models from 24 carmakers. Nearly 200,000 NEVs were sold during these campaigns.

A total of 200,000 NEVs were sold in China last November, up 104.9 percent from a year ago and registering a fifth time in the year to break monthly records. The NEV production added up to nearly 1.11 million in the January-November period, an uptick of 3.9 percent.

Fu introduced that the policies to promote auto consumption by central and local governments, including the vehicle replacement subsidies, as well as the promotional activities launched across the nation, have significantly released the demand in the auto market and propelled the recovery of the passenger vehicle market. The NEV sales is expected to exceed 20 million in 2020, he added.

Driven by infrastructure construction and investment, and the policies to promote vehicle replacement, the sales of commercial vehicles also demonstrated robust growth. According to statistics, China produced and sold 518,000 and 472,000 commercial vehicles in November 2020, up 20.3 percent and 18 percent year on year. The sales volume registered an eighth time of the year to create a new high in the same month of past years, and the sales of heavy-duty and light-duty trucks also set new records for November figures in history.