Chinese Auto Market Still Sour, Dealers Discount Old Stock

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Automotive retail sales in China rose slightly last month, representing the first uptick in volume over the last year, according to Bloomberg. But those gains were the result of a nationwide fire sale of backed-up inventory that dealers were tired of seeing clutter up their lots. Officially, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) says the new vehicle market still kind of sucks.

For June, wholesale deliveries of new passenger vehicles fell 7.8 percent to 1.73 million units. That’s twelve straight months of negative growth.

Who is to blame? Well, China’s overall economy isn’t performing wonderfully. Consumer prices on just about everything have increased while the producer price index is nearing the point of deflation. The trade war has exacerbated the issue and, despite it being on hold for the moment, most analysts aren’t forecasting an economic comeback in Asia anytime soon.

However, the automotive market has problems of its own. Tightening emission rules have spooked consumers. At the start of this month, Chinese cities and provinces implemented an evolved emission standard (stage-5) which requires cars to have better filtering systems for particulate matter and trapping exhaust gases in order to be sold. Eager to meet — if not surpass — European auto pollution mandates, China has established a hyper-aggressive regulatory path. Unfortunately those cleaner cars have been a tough sell, as consumers/dealers don’t know if they’ll legally be allowed to put them on the secondhand market.

Certain cities, such as Shanghai, have even gone so far as to adopt new stage-6 standards a year ahead of schedule — meaning dealers cannot sell stage-5 passenger cars that would be legal elsewhere in the country. There have also be discussions of outright bans of internal combustion vehicles further down the line.

“No local government wants second-hand cars or old-generation cars flooding into their cities or provinces,” said Cui Dongshu, secretary of the China Passenger Car Association. “Local government doesn’t care about the life and death of the companies or dealerships.”

According to The Japan Times, some dealerships were chopping more than $2,000 off the price of new stage-5 cars compared to the same model meeting stage-6 standards. One Peugeot dealership in Shanghai reportedly even went so far as to offer a free 301 sedan to customers who bought a 5008 crossover.

[Image: Kzenon/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Comments
Join the conversation
7 of 16 comments
  • Cprescott Cprescott on Jul 10, 2019

    I've never understood the Chinese market - why buy a real vehicle (i.e. Range Rover) when there is a much cheaper Chinese knockoff that is sold legally for tens of thousands of Chinese shells less? The rush to invest in China was foolish to begin with - there is a reason they require a Chinese partner (that is so that later the company can be nationalized when China goes to war with us) - and (2) the market is so pumped up with fake Chinese shells through their toying with their valuation that there is no hope of ever having the market to right itself on its own. Of course the only reason China gave us the bailout dollars for GM is to artificially create jobs there and then when GM ultimately fails, instant Chinese access to US market (and then total domination of the market when they wage war with us and bring us to our knees during a Democrat Presidency).

    • See 3 previous
    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Jul 11, 2019

      @Inside Looking Out Good question that reveals something about Americans. Fact is, people in many countries think American products are better than their own. As poorly as we think our junk is, in many cases, our junk IS better.

  • TheDumbGuy TheDumbGuy on Jul 10, 2019

    Maybe they could send some of their crappy cars over here. They could call them Buicks. Oh, wait !

  • Mike Some Evs are hitting their 3 year lease residual values in 6 months.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I am just here for the beer! (did I say it right?)
  • El scotto Tim, to be tactful I think a great many of us would like a transcript of TTAC's podcast. 90 minutes is just too long for most of us to listen. -evil El Scotto kicking in- The blog at best provides amusement, 90 minutes is just too much. Way too much.
  • TooManyCars VoGhost; I was referring more to the Canadian context, but the same graft is occurring in the US of A and Europe. Political affiliation appears to be irrelevant.
  • The Oracle Going to see a lot of corporations migrating out of Delaware as the state of incorporation. Musk sets trends, he doesn’t follow them.
Next