China’s February new car sales are in, and they are whatever you want them to be. They are up a lot if you look at February alone. They are down if you look at the first two months of the year. They are confused for those who don’t know where to look.
1.6087 million automobiles (all kinds) were produced in China in February, up 28.48 percent year-on-year. Sales of new autos amounted to 1.5671 million, an increase of 24.51 percent. This according to data published by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) on Friday.
The results for January and February are thoroughly skewed, because this year, the Chinese New Year holidays fell into January, in 2011, the holidays were observed in February. The CAAM thankfully provides a two month picture. In January and February combined, automobile sales of 2.9543 million were recorded, down 5.96 percent year-on-year. Passenger car sales in the two month period were 2.3737 million, down 4.37 percent. In the same period, commercial vehicles amounted to 580,600 units, down 11.91 percent.
The continued weakness in the commercial vehicle sector does not bode well for the Chinese economy. In the business, commercial vehicle sales are seen as a leading indicator, passenger vehicle sales are commonly used as a trailing indicator. Weak commercial sales usually impact (Wuling-) van heavy GM. Due to strong sales of the Buick and Chevrolet brands, along with a record February for Wuling, GM and its Chinese joint ventures recorded an increase of 7.7 percent for the first two months of the year.
Copying the numbers released by the CAAM shouldn’t be too hard, but apparently, it is. Whereas officious organs, such as Xinhua, China Daily and Associated Press use the correct (rounded) number of 24.5 percent, other media, such as The Economic Times or Automotive News say the number was 26.5. That’s the number for passenger vehicle, gentlemen. Or maybe not: Chinaautoweb says passenger vehicle sales grew 25.2 percent.
The weakness in the car sector does not deter analysts. J.D. Power analyst Geoff Broderick says vehicle sales in China could jump as high as 35 million a year by 2018 — a near doubling of the market, the Wall Street Journal writes.