The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) is reporting its home market grew 74.9 percent in March, resulting in nearly 2.53 million new-vehicle deliveries. While we’re often skeptical of the organization’s rosy predictions and tallies, it’s claiming the recent sales surge is the direct result of how bad things had been in the previous year. China instituted some of the most aggressive lockdown protocols of any nation in the initial stages of the pandemic and had already been struggling with a declining vehicle market in 2019.
CAAM is making no illusions about the gains being based on anything other than how horrible March of 2020 was and doesn’t want to overpromise moving ahead. It’s a warning that the semiconductor shortage will likely worsen as the year continues, dampening Q2 projections. But the organization has not yet revised its forecast for next year’s overall sales. Last December, CAMM predicted roughly 26.3 million vehicles would be delivered by the end of 2021 and appears to be running with that target.
That could be the result of how well the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said things were going in Q4. Auto sales in China rose 12.6 last November from the same month a year earlier, representing a major turnaround after an extremely long stint of lackluster volumes. Last month, the trend continued. March passenger vehicle sales grew 77 percent (year-over-year) while commercial vehicles swelled by 68 percent. Those figures account for 1.87 million and 651,000 new vehicles, respectively.
Electric vehicles, something China has been pushing with mixed success, also saw their numbers rebounding hard. CAAM estimated a nearly 240 percent improvement over the previous March, with the vast majority being fully electric products.
CAAM has been reporting consistently favorable industry growth for about twelve months now. While the rest of the world spent February through June of 2020 selling a fraction of what would have been normal, China reported a surprisingly brief hiccup that coincided with the Lunar New Year — when sales would have been suppressed by the extended holiday anyway. By March of 2020, most nations were still reeling from supply chain issues created by lockdowns. However, CAAM said the things were once again moving in the right direction.
The industry is claiming high levels of growth vs this time last year in general, with global manufacturers claiming double-digit boosts over the period. According to J.D. Power, the U.S. auto market swelled 26 percent (retail) in the first quarter and saw overall light-vehicle sales grow by 12 percent. But CAAM had industrywide new-vehicle sales in China rebounding by a whopping 76 percent over the same timeframe. Perhaps the last year was harder on the Chinese market than we originally anticipated.