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China’s economic revival warms CV sales in 2009

Sales of commercial vehicles in the first 11 months of 2009, which include both light commercial vehicles (light buses, light trucks and mini trucks) and heavy-duty vehicles (medium and large buses, and medium and heavy-duty trucks), reached 2.29 million units, growing 32.08 percent year-on-year. Output was a bit higher, at 2.34 million units, up 35.97 percent from the same period a year prior. Sales of semi-tractor trailers posted 186,349 units, down 1.73 percent in the January-November period of 2009. Chinese commercial vehicle makers sold 523,733 chassis during the period, a slight increase of 3.72 percent.

Yearly sales of commercial vehicles amounted to 3.31 million units, a growth of 28.39 percent from the previous year. Analysts attributed the growth to the adoption of fuel taxes and revival of the Chinese economy at large. 

Beiqi-Foton, which was China’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer, became the world’s largest such manufacturer in 2009, with cumulative sales of 539,000 units from January to November. It was followed by Dongfeng and FAW, which sold 404,000 and 277,000 commercial vehicles respectively. Total sales of the top 10 commercial vehicle manufacturers were 2.09 million units in the first 11 months of 2009, accounting for 70 percent of the country’s total sales in the period.

Table 1. Light commercial vehicles: sales boosted by trade-in policy

                              Output                     % Change                  Sales                        % Change

Mini trucks              442,062                    80.86                       437,517                      79.58

Light trucks             1,361,991                 31.64                       1,324,029                   27.68

Light buses              170,114                    7.44                         166,237                      3.79

Total                       1,974,167                 37.34                       1,927,783                   33.80

China made nearly 2 million light commercial vehicles from January to November of 2009, up 37.34 percent from the previous year. Sales were slightly lower, namely 1.92 million, up 33.80 percent year-on-year. 

Both mini trucks and light trucks greatly benefited from the government’s policy of subsidies for trade-in vehicles. Across different segments of light commercial vehicles, mini trucks registered the highest growth, up about 80 percent in both output and sales. Among automakers, Chang’an sold the most mini trucks. Noticeably, Beiqi-Foton witnessed an explosive increase in mini truck sales in 2009, greatly contributing to its dominance of the commercial vehicle industry. 

Light trucks were the second fastest-growing segment, rising 31.64 percent in output and 27.68 percent in sales. Beiqi-Foton remained the largest light truck manufacturer. The rest of the top 10 light truck makers all registered sales growth of over 15 percent.

Table 2. Sales of Top 5 mini truck makers in January-November of 2009

                                                                Sales                    % Change

Chang’an                                                  118,485                41.23

Beiqi-Foton                                                89,347                 17350.59

SAIC-GM-Wuling                                         62,939                  39.06

Hafei                                                         46,726                  34.37

Dongfeng                                                   41,674                  71.41


The light bus segment saw slight growth of 7.44 percent in output and 3.79 percent in sales during the timeframe. Brilliance-Jinbei continued to be China’s largest light bus manufacturer, with total sales of 59,580 units from January to November.

China’s cabinet has raised the subsidy for trade-in vehicles from a range of ¥3,000-¥6,000 ($435-$870) to ¥5,000-¥18,000, effective January 1 to December 31 of 2010. Mini trucks and light trucks are believed to be the vehicle types that benefited most greatly from the policy. If the light bus segment continues its own rise, then the light commercial vehicle market will continue to rise significantly in 2010.

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