BEIJING (Bloomberg) -- China’s passenger-vehicle sales expanded at a faster pace in the first half as rising demand for crossovers, SUVs and new-energy vehicles widened the nation’s lead as the world’s biggest auto market.
Retail sales of cars, crossovers, SUVs and multipurpose vehicles climbed 9.5 percent to 10.8 million in the January-June period, according to the China Passenger Car Association. Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz gained share as growth in industrywide deliveries outpaced last year’s 8.4 percent gain.
Among global carmakers, first-half sales climbed 5.3 percent to 1.81 million at General Motors Co., 6 percent to 577,097 for Ford Motor Co. and 3.8 percent to 609,900 for Nissan Motor Co.
China’s Geely Automobile Holdings’ deliveries gained 11 percent to 280,337 units and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co.’s sales increased 29 percent to 731,884 units.
Demand for SUVs has been rising as increasingly affluent Chinese buyers opt for more spacious vehicles, a trend that may continue with the scrapping of the country’s decades-old one-child policy. The reduction in the purchase tax on vehicles with engines smaller than 1.6 liters in October also provided a tailwind for sales of compact and midsize crossovers.
“Sales of SUVs continue to be robust as Chinese families who plan to have a second child are keen on the size and height of the car,” said Zhang Xin, chief auto analyst with Guotai Junan Securities in Beijing. “SUVs with small engines that are more fuel-efficient are becoming the trend.”
Deliveries increased 18 percent to 542,527 for Honda, while Toyota’s rose 16 percent to 592,100 in the first half. Mercedes-Benz sales surged 32 percent to 229,137.
SUVs and crossovers accounted for 35 percent of total passenger-vehicle sales in the first six months, compared with 27 percent in the same period a year earlier. That’s also in part been driven by more local manufacturers introducing cheaper models in the segment to woo buyers. Industrywide deliveries rose 19 percent to 1.7 million vehicles in June.
The operating costs for Chinese customers to switch from sedans to crossovers and SUVs are low because domestic automakers offer less expensive SUVs than their foreign competitors, according to Steve Man, an auto analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.
The more than doubling of sales of EVs stand out as the government accelerates construction of charging points to serve 5 million electric vehicles by 2020. China, which surpassed the U.S. as the largest market for EVs last year, wants sales of what it calls new-energy vehicles to exceed 3 million units a year by 2025.
Deliveries of new-energy vehicles surged 126 percent to 86,374 in the five months through May, according data on the association’s website. BAIC Motor Corp.’s BAIC E series was top-selling EV in the January-May period, while BYD Co.’s Tang SUV was the best seller in the plug-in hybrid category.
One segment that was an exception to the growth trend was mini commercial vehicles, with sales falling 34 percent to 374,208 in the first half.