Five hundred automobiles manufactured by a Chinese carmaker are about to be shipped to the Netherlands at a dock of Lianyungang port, east China’s Jiangsu province, Feb. 3, 2020. Photo by Wang Chun, People’s Daily Online
Photo by Wang Chun, People’s Daily Online

China’s auto market saw a forecast-beating performance in 2020 despite the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, thanks to policy support and a strong recovery in consumer demand, data from an industry association showed Wednesday.

The number of automobiles sold in the country totaled 25.31 million last year, down 1.9 percent year on year, narrowing 6.3 percentage points from the decline seen in 2019, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM).

“China continues to top the world in auto sales,” the CAAM said in a statement, attributing the industry’s strong performance to government support, efforts of auto firms as well as robust recovery in market demand.

In 2020, China produced 25.23 million automobiles, down 2 percent year on year, narrowing 5.5 percentage points from the drop in 2019.

In December, auto sales reached 2.83 million, up 6.4 percent year on year, while production totaled 2.84 million, up 5.7 percent from a year earlier.

The country’s auto market was hit hard by the COVID-19 epidemic in the first quarter, but both production and sales have bounced back quickly since April as factories reopened and pent-up demand unleashed.

Sales of new energy vehicles (NEV) in China went up 10.9 percent year on year to 1.37 million units in 2020 amid government efforts to encourage their use and ease pressure on the environment. In December alone, NEV sales surged 49.5 percent year on year to 248,000 units.

The better-than-expected NEV sales came amid government push and rising market enthusiasm for eco-friendly cars. In November last year, China unveiled a development plan for its NEV industry from 2021 to 2035 that aims to accelerate the country’s transition into an automotive powerhouse.

The proportion of new NEVs in the sales of new vehicles is expected to rise to 20 percent by 2025, and vehicles used in public transportation will be completely electrified by 2035, according to the plan.

Auto exports also started to recover in September, ending the weak performance in the first eight months of 2020, the CAAM said.

In December last year, China’s auto exports surged 35.5 percent year on year to 145,000 units, notching a historic high. For the whole year, Chinese auto firms exported a total of 995,000 vehicles.

The Ministry of Commerce introduced fresh measures this month to boost auto sales, encouraging cities to optimize their restrictions on auto consumption and incentivize rural consumption of cars.

As the Chinese economy continues stable recovery, the rebound in consumer demand would accelerate, contributing to positive growth in the country’s auto market in 2021, the CAAM predicted.

“The Chinese auto sector bottomed out in 2020,” it said, adding that auto sales are expected to exceed 26 million units in 2021, up 4 percent year on year. Enditem

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