China’s passenger car sales in January skyrocketed an unbelievable 115.5 percent from a year earlier, China’s official scorekeeper, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said today. A total of 1.32m passenger cars were sold last month in China, compared with 610,600 units a year earlier. In December 2009, 1.1m units changed hands, Reuters reports. The January number is even more surprising as the China Passenger Car Association had originally figured that China’s passenger car sales rose 84 per cent in January. We compared the Reuters story with Xinhua, the official word on China, and Xinhua also says: “Passenger car sales were up 113.21 percent to 1.32 million units last month.”
Overall vehicle sales, including buses and trucks as well as cars, were even more amazing: A total of 1.66m units in January, up 126.3 percent from 735,500 units a year earlier. Keeping passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles apart is a frustrating exercise in China. Minivans for instance, and of course pickups, count as commercial vehicles.
“Demand remains strong in January as many people want to get a new car for themselves and for their loved ones before the Chinese New Year,” said Zhang Xin, an analyst with Guotai Junan Securities. Chinese New Year, which officially starts on Feb. 14 this year and lasts a week, but unofficially lasts the whole month of February, is the biggest shopping season in China.
Number were slightly distorted. January 2009 had showed a decline of 7.76 percent because of the slowing economy, and because the begin of Chinese New Year fell into January last year.
By way of comparison, U.S. light vehicle sales (cars and trucks) totaled 698,990 in January – that’s less than half of China’s vehicle sales in the same period. In terms of “passenger vehicles,” Americans bought 397,131 in January. The Chinese bought more than three times as many.
2009 auto sales in China were up 45 percent. China blew by the United States and became the world’s largest car market by a wide margin. Analysts predicted more sedate growth rates of 10 to 15 percent in 2010, if only because of the higher comparative base in 2009. Chen Hong, president of SAIC, sees bigger gains, due largely to pent-up demand in smaller cities where cars are no longer a luxury item as wealth grows. Most of China’s automakers share his optimism and invest for a growth between 20 and 30 percent in 2010.