China auto sales fall 14 percent in February, mark eighth month of decline

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s automobile sales fell 13.8 percent in February from the same month a year earlier, the country’s biggest auto industry association said on Monday, marking the eighth consecutive month of decline in the world’s largest auto market.

FILE PHOTO: Newly manufactured cars are seen at the automobile terminal in the port of Dalian, Liaoning province, China July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer/File photo

The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said sales fell to 1.48 million vehicles last month, after declines of 16 percent in January and 13 percent in December.

Sales of new energy vehicles, such as electric cars, rose 53.6 percent year-on-year in February, the group said.

“The trend experienced last year has continued into this year, and the economic situation has also been weak. This has dragged down consumption,” CAAM’s Deputy Secretary General Shi Jianhua told reporters at a news briefing in Beijing.

“Consumers are also waiting for more government policies,” he said.

China plans billions of dollars in tax cuts and infrastructure spending to support an economy growing at its slowest pace in almost 30 years due to softer domestic demand and a trade war with the United States.

It has promised subsidies to boost rural sales of some vehicles as well as demand for new energy vehicles, after China’s auto market contracted last year for the first time in more than two decades.

The major task for dealers in the first half of 2019 is to reduce vehicle inventories amid rising funding pressures, said Chen Shihua, CAAM’s assistant secretary general.

The sales performance for some Chinese automakers has been mixed so far. Great Wall Motor Co Ltd reported 18 percent growth in February compared to the same month last year, while Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd said sales fell 24 percent in the same period.

Car sales in January and February tend to be affected by the Lunar New Year holiday -- which this year took place in the first week of February -- when consumers often delay purchases, auto executives have said.

(For a graphic on 'China car sales deepen decline' click

Reporting by Yilei Sun in BEIJING and Brenda Goh in SHANGHAI; Editing by Christopher Cushing