Beijing’s war on the ICE notwithstanding, auto sales in China rose by 5.36 percent in March. That is the headline from a Sunday afternoon press conference held by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). More than 60 journalists were poised to report that for the first time any of them could remember, the Chinese market did sink. But it went the other way. Still up.
In March, a total of 1,828,500 vehicles changed hands in China. For the first quarter, sales were 4,983,800 for an increase of 8.08 percent. (And not 4.98 percent, as AFP erroneously reports.) Production for the first quarter stands at 4,895,800 units for an increase of 7.48 percent.
Passenger vehicle sales still run at a healthy clip, up 6.52 percent in March to 1,347,600 units. For the first three quarters, passenger vehicle sales are up 9.07 percent. (All percentages compared to same period in the previous year.)
Dong Yang, executive vice president and secretary-general of the CAAM, blamed the slower growth rates on the oil price hike, the expiration of tax incentives, auto purchase restrictions in cities like Beijing, and lastly the Japanese earthquakes.
In my humble opinion, the market is simply taking a breather after the record 32 percent run-up to more than 18 million units in 2010. There was a pull-forward effect in the sub 1.6 L class, which still dominates the market. This effect needs to be digested. I had expected a slight decline in Q1. The 18 million Chinese market is intact and it looks like 20 million by year’s end.
What may be in need of service is our patent pending TTAC Chinese market sales oracle. In March, GM China’s sales rose only 1.9 percent across all joint ventures, under-performing the market. But let’s give our oracle a break: For the first quarter, GM China’s sales were up 10 percent, whereas the market rose 9 percent. The oracle is doing alright. A little oil, and it will be fine.
In related news and pursuant to our yesterday’s story on the Chinese license plate roulette, Xinhua reports today that “a total of 491,671 people in Beijing had applied for the monthly lottery of 17,600 license plates for April, which means only one out of 28 will turn out to be winners.” 111,728 new applicants mix in with the luckless from the previous months. If this trend continues, in June your chances of winning a Straight Up in roulette will be better than your odds of winning a license plate in Beijing.