China Car Sales Trail Estimates as Discounts Anticipated

China’s passenger-vehicle sales trailed analysts’ estimates for a second month in August as consumers held off purchases in anticipation of more discounts.

Wholesale deliveries, including multipurpose and sport utility vehicles, gained 11 percent to 1.22 million units last month, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement today. That compares with the 1.24 million mean estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Average passenger-vehicle prices have fallen every month this year as dealerships increased discounts to reduce a glut of inventory, according to National Development and Reform Commission data. Sales in the world’s largest vehicle market have slowed alongside the economy, with data yesterday showing industrial output grew at the slowest pace in three years.

“Slowing economic growth is making consumers reluctant to spend their money on vehicles now,” said Liang Yonghuo, a Shenzhen-based analyst with Haitong International Securities Group Ltd. “Frequent and substantial price cuts may make consumers delay their purchase hoping for an even lower price.”

In the first eight months, passenger-vehicle deliveries rose 8 percent to 9.95 million units, the association said.

Total sales of vehicles, including trucks and buses, rose

8.3 percent to 1.5 million units in August.

Locally made passenger vehicle prices fell 1.62 percent in July from a year earlier, while imported vehicle prices dropped

2.55 percent, the third consecutive monthly decline, according to the NDRC.

Falling Prices

“Prices are coming down pretty quickly,” Liang Liyong, who is considering buying a car, said last week at an auto show in the southwestern city of Chengdu. “I would rather wait for a few more months rather than buying a car right now.”

China’s industrial output increased 8.9 percent in August, the slowest pace in three years, while fixed-asset investment growth in the first eight months eased to 20.2 percent, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday. Inflation accelerated for the first time in five months.

The data underscore risks that full-year growth in the world’s second-biggest economy will slide to its lowest in more than two decades. Chinese President Hu Jintao said on Sept. 8 that a slowdown in exports is putting “notable downward pressure” on the country.

China in mid-July added 149 car models made by 27 automakers to the list of vehicles that qualify for 3,000 yuan in subsidies for energy-saving vehicles, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The previous list had 49 models.

Japan Automakers

Sales slowed for Japanese automakers in the wake of anti-Japan demonstrations last month, CAAM secretary general Dong Yang said in a briefing in Beijing today.

Nissan Motor Co., the biggest Japanese automaker by sales in China, cut back on marketing events after being advised by the government, Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga said last week. Nissan’s sales in China rose 0.6 percent to 95,200 units in August.

Shiga’s comments may be among the first from a major Japanese company acknowledging the fallout from an island dispute that’s soured diplomatic ties between Asia’s two biggest economies and triggered protests.

Demonstrations were held in more than 10 Chinese cities and featured calls for a boycott of Japanese goods, the state-run China Youth Daily reported last month. Japan asked the Chinese government to protect its citizens living in China, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said earlier.

Political Tension

Toyota Motor Corp., which plans to more than double car deliveries by 2015 from 2011 levels, had a 15 percent plunge in car sales last month. The Toyota City, Japan-based company said it saw no impact from the political tension.

General Motors Co., the largest foreign carmaker in China, said sales in the nation gained 7.3 percent last month to 220,996 units, led by demand for its Chevrolet cars.

Ford Motor Co.’s Focus compact was the best-selling car in China last month, followed by the Chevrolet Sail and Buick Excelle, according to CAAM data. Sport utility vehicles remained the best-selling vehicle category, increasing 24 percent last month to 164,300 units.

China’s passenger-vehicle sales growth will probably accelerate in the second half, rising 15 percent to 8.48 million units, driven by demand from first-time buyers and as the economy rebounds, CAAM said in July. Full-year deliveries may increase 11 percent to 16.09 million units, according to the association.

Auto sales will accelerate for the rest of the year, Dong Yang, secretary general of the auto association, said at a briefing in Beijing.

While sales growth has stalled the past two years, high savings rates and pent-up demand mean Chinese consumers are expected to buy 25.5 million vehicles three years from now, according to the average forecast of IHS Automotive, Macquarie Equities Research and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

— With assistance by Tian Ying

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