China auto sales set to grow in ’21, trade group predicts

Industry

The world’s biggest auto market is set to resume growing after a three-year slide capped by the pandemic.

China’s new-vehicle sales will grow 4 percent to more than 26 million in 2021 as the world’s No. 2 economy continues to recover from disruptions caused by the coronavirus, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers predicted last week.

China was the first country battered by the coronavirus and is expected to be the only major economy to have grown in 2020.

Car and light-truck deliveries are forecast to rise 7.5 percent to 21.7 million in 2021 while new commercial-vehicle demand will slip 10 percent to 4.6 million, said Xu Haidong, an official at the industry trade group. Sales of new electrified vehicles including plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles will jump 40 percent to 1.8 million, he added.

New-vehicle demand in China grew for the ninth consecutive month in December, rising 6.4 percent to 2.83 million, as consumers and government spending rebounded in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Still, 2020 sales fell for the third straight year, dipping 1.9 percent to 25.3 million.

Deliveries of light vehicles — sedans, crossovers, SUVs, multipurpose vehicles and minibuses — shrank 6 percent to 20.18 million.

Behind a rebound that began in July, sales of new electrified vehicles, spurred by new entries from Tesla, Nio, Xpeng and others, totaled 1.37 million in 2020, an increase of 11 percent from 2019.

Deliveries of full-electric vehicles advanced 12 percent to 1.12 million while plug-in hybrid deliveries rose 8.4 percent to some 251,000.

Volkswagen Group remained by far the largest foreign automaker in China last year, even as sales fell 9.1 percent to 3.85 million, with declines at the VW and Skoda brands eclipsing gains at Audi and Porsche. It was the first sales decline the German auto giant recorded in China since 2016.

Deliveries at General Motors, China’s No. 2 foreign automaker, dropped 6.1 percent to 2.9 million last year. Buick sales rose 4.1 percent to exceed 885,000 and Cadillac deliveries rose 7.9 percent to top 230,000. Deliveries at Wuling, a major minibus maker, grew 8.8 percent to nearly 1.1 million.

By contrast, sales slumped 30 percent to 291,000 at Chevrolet and 34 percent to 402,000 at Baojun, a market-entry car brand.

SAIC Motor Corp., which has partnerships with VW Group and GM, saw sales drop 10 percent in 2020 to 5.6 million.

SAIC, China’s biggest automaker, aims to boost sales 14 percent to 6.4 million this year, the most in more than a decade, behind a push into key EV segments. The company is targeting a 140 percent increase in new-energy-vehicle deliveries, to 768,000, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

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