SHANGHAI – The Chinese market for new light vehicles registered a strong rebound for the fourth straight month in September.
Shipments of sedans, crossovers, SUVs, multi-purpose vehicles and minibuses industrywide jumped 33 percent to exceed 2.3 million.
But the latest rally, spurred in part by government incentives and easing COVID restrictions, has been disappointing for many automakers and dealers.
The majority of car manufacturers benefiting from the market’s comeback are domestic companies.
BYD Co., Geely Automobile Holdings, Changan Automobile Co., Chery Automobile Co. and GAC Motor Co. all reported robust growth in September.
By contrast, except for Tesla and some luxury brands such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volvo, most other global automakers including General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. saw deliveries contract during the month, according to data released by the companies or their Chinese joint venture partners.
The overall market gains are being driven mainly by electrified-vehicle sales, where most producers are Chinese companies.
In September, shipments of full electric and plug-in hybrid light vehicles industrywide surged 95 percent to around 675,000.
Among the 15 biggest sellers of electrified vehicles in China last month, Tesla and Volkswagen, ranking second and ninth, were the only foreign brands. The rest were all Chinese automakers.
Chinese brands, bolstered by explosive electrified-vehicle demand, raised their collective share of the new car and light-truck market to 40.8 percent in September, 2.9 percentage points higher than a year earlier, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
The sustained market rally last month disappointed new-vehicle dealers as well.
According to a new survey by the China Automobile Dealers Association, nearly 65 percent of dealers said new-car sales in September fell short of expectation for three main reasons.
The double-digit rebound last month come partly as a result of a favorable comparison to September 2021, when volume slumped 17 percent to 1.75 million, largely reflecting the industry’s severe semiconductor chip crunch.
Dealers were also dismayed to see showroom traffic thinned and local auto shows canceled as the Chinese government adheres to a zero-COVID policy to contain sporadic coronavirus outbreaks.
And dealers remain frustrated that automakers, eager to realize wholesale delivery targets for the third quarter, have kept inventories at dealerships above normal levels despite the market rally.
Last month, the average backlog at new-car stores in China was 44.1 days, basically unchanged from 43.8 days in August and still above historic levels, the CADA said this week.
September has long been dubbed the “golden” month for auto sales, namely the best time for dealers to market and sell and for consumers to buy a new car, SUV or crossover.
But for most foreign automakers and new-car dealers, they didn’t feel the optimism or glow that usually comes with the month.