NEVs lead the sales charge but some promotions blamed for interference

MG models are lined up in SAIC's Ningde plant in Fujian province in March 2023. (LI FUSHENG / CHINA DAILY)

Carmakers saw their sales in April soar from the same month last year, but the country's leading trade association said further efforts are needed to boost recovery in the world's largest vehicle market.

More than 2.13 million vehicles were produced in April and 2.16 million units sold, up 76.8 percent and 82.7 percent year-on-year, according to statistics released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers on Thursday.

The surges were primarily the result of a comparatively low base in the same month last year as the COVID-19 pandemic stalled production in major vehicle-producing cities, including Changchun, capital of Jilin province, and Shanghai.

But production and sales last month were down by 17.5 percent and 11.9 percent from March because of industry-wide promotional campaigns that almost verged on "irrational", said the CAAM.

The negative effects of such viral campaigns, which were started in February by some less popular brands to cut stock, have not yet fully gone and some potential consumers are still adopting a wait-and-see attitude, said Chen Shihua, deputy secretary-general of the CAAM.

This was reflected by sales of gasoline-powered passenger vehicles in April, which stood at 985,000 units, up 65.2 percent year-on-year, much lower than the industry's average of 82.7 percent.

That means the growth in the passenger vehicle segment was mainly driven by the new energy vehicles, which saw "remarkable growth" in the month, said Chen.

The association did not give a specific figure regarding passenger NEVs but sales of NEVs as a whole soared to 636,000 units in April, up 110 percent year-on-year and accounting for 29.5 percent of China's vehicle sales in the month.

Their sales from January to April totaled 2.22 million units, up 42.8 percent year-on-year. The CAAM estimated that NEV sales in 2023 could reach 9 million, up from 6.9 million in 2022.

Customers take a closer look at Li Auto's L9 model at the 2023 Shanghai auto show. (CAO YINGYING / CHINA DAILY)

Major NEV makers saw their sales soar in April. BYD sold more than 210,000 vehicles in April, up 98.5 percent year-on-year, consolidating its position as the No 1 NEV maker in the country. It was followed by Tesla, whose deliveries reached 76,000 units in the month.

Other major automakers saw their NEV sales grow rapidly as well. SAIC sold 66,000 NEVs in April, with its total in the first four months exceeding 200,000 units, and GAC as well as Dongfeng followed, delivering 45,000 and 32,000 units respectively in the month.

Of the startups, Li Auto ranked first by selling 26,000 units in April, up 516 percent year-on-year. It was the only startup to make it into the country's top 10 best-selling NEV makers both in April and so far this year.

The growing popularity of NEVs helped carmakers' total sales in April. SAIC, China's largest carmaker by sales, delivered 373,949 units last month, up 124.5 percent from the same month in 2022.

Great Wall Motors sold 93,107 vehicles in April, up 73.14 percent year-on-year, the Hebei province-based carmaker said last week.

Of them, 14,863 were NEVs, soaring 284.06 percent year-on-year, as the carmaker is revving up efforts to shift toward electrification.

As China's largest SUV and pickup truck maker, Great Wall Motors showcased more than 30 heavyweight models at the Shanghai auto show in April, half of which were NEVs.

China's vehicle exports continued to grow as well. In April, carmakers shipped overseas 376,000 units, up 170 percent year-on-year and 3.3 percent from March.

Total exports in the first four months reached 1.37 million units, up 89.2 percent year-on-year. Of them, the majority were passenger vehicles, standing at 1.14 million units.

The General Administration of Customs said on Tuesday that vehicle exports from January to April were worth 204.5 billion yuan ($29.52 billion), up 120.3 percent from the same period last year.

SAIC exported 89,643 vehicles in April, bringing the total for the first four months to 346,696 units — up 64.99 percent from the January-April 2022 period.

SAIC expects its total exports to hit 1.2 million units this year, up from 1.02 million units in 2022, with Europe, the Middle East and Mexico among its major markets.

Great Wall Motors saw its overseas sales reach 21,814 units in April, up 182.09 percent year-on-year, accounting for 23.43 percent of its total deliveries for the month.

The automaker said it inked cooperation deals with dealerships from dozens of countries at the 2023 Shanghai auto show held in April, which further expanded its global reach.

In April, Great Wall Motors launched new energy models in the Philippines and Brazil. The company said it will enter other markets, including Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam later this year.