New vehicle sales in China increased by 14% to 2.853 million units in October 2023 from 2.505 million units in the same month of last year, according to passenger car and commercial vehicle wholesale data released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM).

The vehicle market continued to strengthen in October, helped by significant new model launches in recent months as well as aggressive promotional campaigns and deep discounting by vehicle manufacturers. China’s recovery from the Covid pandemic has been sluggish so far despite significant economic stimulus by the government, with GDP expanding by just 5.2% in the first nine months of the year after growth slowed to 3% in the whole of 2022. Manufacturing and exports remain weak, while the property sector is struggling to recover from some large-scale bankruptcies.

The vehicle market in the first ten months of the year expanded by almost 9% to 23.97 million units from 21.98 million in the same period last year, with passenger vehicle sales rising by 7.5% to 20.66 million units while commercial vehicle sales were 20% higher at 3.31 million units.

Chinese brands have significantly increased their combined share of the country’s passenger vehicle market in the last few years, to an estimated 56% year-to-date, thanks in large part to the growing popularity of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles – referred to locally as new energy vehicles (NEVs). Sales of NEVs increased by 38% to 7.3 million units year-to-date to account for over 30% of total vehicle sales in the country.

Vehicle production rose by 8% to 24.02 million units in the ten-month period, while exports surged by 58% to 3.88 million units – including 949,000 NEVs.

Latest GlobalData China market forecast

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After a weak start to the year, domestic sales have been gradually improving and are expected to continue to gather momentum, because:

  1. The government introduced a series of stimulus measures to boost consumption. In particular, a permanent personal income tax reduction (which has become effective, retroactive to January 2023) has already increased personal disposable income.
  2. The government stated that it is committed to supporting the auto industry and market, especially in 2023 and 2024.
  3. The government has extended the temporary purchase tax cut on NEVs until the end of 2027.
  4. There are signs that consumers are becoming more willing to spend money after holding off for months.

As such, GlobalData expects that sales will remain robust over the next few years but will lose steam in 2028 and onward after the temporary purchase tax cut on NEVs is completely phased out at the end of 2027. However, GlobalData analysts remain cautious about the long-term sales outlook, due to an uncertain economic outlook and the fast-aging population in China.

Manufacturer YTD performances

The country’s largest vehicle manufacturing group, Shanghai-based SAIC Motor, reported an 9.5% fall in global sales to 3,868,785 in the first ten months of 2023 – with sales in October dropping by just over 2% to 491,433 units. Overseas sales increased by 23% to 949,154 units in this period. At the beginning of the year the group set a target to increase global sales by 13% to six million vehicles in 2023, including 1.5 million NEVs.

SAIC-GM-Wuling’s ten-month sales fell by 16% to 1,041,400 units, followed by SAIC-Volkswagen with a 12% decline to 952,341 units and Shanghai-GM’s sales with a 17% drop to 809,259 units. SAIC Motor’s own passenger vehicle sales increased by almost 10% to 744,468 units, while SAIC Maxus’ sales increased by over 6% to 180,700 units.

BYD’s global sales surged by 70% to 2,381,471 units year-to-date, including a tenfold increase in overseas sales to 176,041 units. Deliveries of battery electric vehicle (BEV) sales surged by 77% to 1,213,918 units, while plug-in hybrid sales increased by 64% to 1,157,432 units. Earlier this year the company said it aims to sell over 3 million vehicles in 2023.

GAC Group’s sales declined by just over 1% to 2,018,713 units in the first ten months of the year, with GAC Toyota’s sales falling by over 9% at 766,600 units while GAC Honda’s sales were down by 23% at 499,359 units. The group’s electric vehicle subsidiary, GAC Aion, said its sales surged by almost 85% to 392,489 units.

Geely Auto reported a 17% rise in global sales to 1,335,984 units, while Great Wall Motors’ global sales were almost 10% higher at 995,353 units.

Tesla shipments from its Shanghai factory were slightly higher year-on-year at 72,115 units in October, bringing the year-to-date total to just over 771,000 units - including 463,000 local sales and 308,000 exports. The company launched the facelifted Model 3 and Model Y last month.