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China’s March Passenger Vehicle Sales Gain 13% on Discounts

China’s passenger-vehicle sales rose 13 percent in March as steeper discounts spurred car demand in the world’s biggest auto market.

Wholesale deliveries of cars, multipurpose and sport-utility vehicles, climbed to 1.59 million units in March, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. That compared with the median estimate of 1.6 million units by three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Automakers and dealers stepped up incentives to help boost sales in March, according to Xu Yue, executive vice president of China Yongda Automobiles Services Holdings Ltd. Bigger promotions came after average stockpiles climbed at the end of February, according to data from the auto association.

“March is the end of a quarter so there is usually pressure on reducing inventory,” Lin Huaibin, Shanghai-based analyst at researcher IHS Automotive.

Total sales of vehicles, including buses and trucks, rose 11 percent to 2.04 million units last month, the association said.

Automakers including Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. and BYD Co. said they are optimistic about auto demand this year with the new government leadership in place.

“We are confident” about this year’s growth, Lawrence Ang, executive director at Geely said on March 20 in Hong Kong. “China’s overall economy will be improved from last year with the new government’s stimulus policies” and help spur vehicle demand.

Foreign Brands

Total vehicle sales in the first quarter rose 13 percent to 5.42 million units, the association said. Auto sales in the quarter gained 17 percent to 4.42 million units.

Commercial vehicles sales also improved by 2.5 percent last month to 449,600 units, along with truck sales going up 3.2 percent to 320,300 deliveries.

GM, the biggest foreign automaker in China, posted a 9.6 percent increase in its deliveries in the first quarter, led by demand for its Buick vehicles and Wuling microvans.

The Detroit-based automaker, vying with Volkswagen AG for the lead among foreign automakers in the world’s largest auto market, won buyers from Japanese brands. A dispute over islands in the East China Sea between Japan and China escalated and triggered a consumer backlash against Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. All three Japanese carmakers reported a decline in China sales in the first quarter.

China’s average inventory levels at auto dealers climbed to 2.01 months worth of sales as of the end of February, versus 1.1 months in January, according to the dealer association.

Among the more than 1,000 dealers surveyed, 46 percent of them saw vehicles prices falling in March, compared with 6.2 percent of them in February, according to the dealer association.

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