New vehicle sales in China increased 8% to 2.58m units in August 2023 from 2.38m a year earlier, according to passenger car and commercial vehicle wholesale data released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM).

The market picked up some momentum last month after a sluggish couple of months, helped by promotional campaigns and discounts by vehicle manufacturers and government stimulus policies.

The economic recovery from the Covid pandemic has also been sluggish so far, with GDP expanding by just 5.5% in the first half of the year after growth slowed to 3% in the whole of 2022. Youth unemployment remains high and consumers have reined in spending amid rising economic uncertainty with the property sector among the weakest sectors.

Vehicle sales in the first eight months of the year also expanded 8% to 18.21m units from 16.86m a year ago, with passenger vehicle sales rising by 7% to 15.64m while commercial vehicle sales were 16% higher at 2.57m.

Chinese brands have significantly increased their combined share of the passenger vehicle market in the last few years, to an estimated 55% 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 those increased 39% to 5.37m units YTD, accounting for almost 30% of total vehicle sales.

Vehicle production rose 7% to 18.2m YTD while exports surged 62% to 2.94m including 727,000 NEVs.

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Manufacturer performances

The country’s largest automaker, Shanghai-based SAIC Motor, reported an 11% fall in global sales to 2,895,164 YTD with August volume dropping 17% to 423,319 units. Overseas sales increased by over 26% to 733,140 units in this period. At the beginning of the year, the group set a target to increase global sales by 13% to 6m in 2023, including 1.5m NEVs.

SAIC-Volkswagen YTD sales dropped 14% to 712,325 units while Shanghai-GM sales were 16% lower at 624,259 units. SAIC-GM-Wuling was (as usual) the group’s worst performing joint venture with sales falling 17% to 751,400 units while SAIC Motor’s own passenger vehicle sales were 4% higher at 558,172 units and SAIC Maxus sales increased 9% to 142,637 units.

BYD global sales surged 83% to 1,783,352 units YTD including 117,470 overseas sales. Deliveries of plug in hybrids increased 82% to 886,132 units while BEV sales surged 84% to 897,220 units. Earlier this year, the company said it aimed to sell 3m vehicles in 2023.

GAC Group sales fell 2% to 1,550,700 units YTD with GAC Honda sales falling 26% to 374,400 units while GAC Toyota sales were down 11% at 593,400 units. The electric vehicle subsidiary, GAC Aion, said sales doubled to 299,400 units.

Dongfeng Motor YTD sales fell 23% to 1,290,400 units, including a 27% drop in passenger vehicle sales to 1,062,200 units.

Geely Auto reported a 15% rise in global sales to 984,800 units, including a 39% increase in exports 166,400 units, while Great Wall Motors global sales were 5% higher at 742,400 units.

Tesla shipments from the Shanghai factory increased 56% to 625,000 units YTD including 390,000 for sale in China. The company launched a revamped version of the Model 3 earlier this month which the company claimed has range of 600km (375 miles) on a single charge.