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Survey: car ownership levels lowest since January 2014

BEIJING – Car ownership level has hit the lowest point since January 2014 while a decrease can also be seen in the proportion of respondents planning to buy a car in the next 12 months as a result of reduced additional purchases, according to the MNI China Auto Purchase Sentiment Report released on September 2.

This report is derived mainly from data collected in the Westpac MNI China Consumer Sentiment Survey, a monthly survey of consumers across China. The data is collected via telephone interviews and at least 1,000 interviews are conducted each month with respondents in 30 first, second and third tier cities aged between 18 and 64.

Car ownership level has hit the lowest point since the beginning of last year. A decrease from 40.3 percent in July to 37.5 percent in August can be seen in the proportion of respondents reporting they currently owned a car. But there seems to be no further plans to revise up this figure because the proportion of consumers who plan to buy a car in the next 12 months fell from 20.7 percent in July to 18.7 percent in August. This drop results more from the decisions of consumers to reduce additional purchase, indicates the survey.

In terms of the general car buying environment, however, the picture was not so gloomy. Still, overall sentiment remains at a low level and pulled back after showing some signs of life in July. The Car Purchase Sentiment Indicator, composed of the Car Purchase Expectations Indicator and the Gasoline Price Sentiment Indicator, was relatively flat in the month falling 0.3 percent from 87.1 in July to 86.9 in August. It was still unable to break out of the downward trend that has emerged so far in 2015.

The Car Purchase Expectations Indicator, which shows whether consumers believe it is a good timing in general to buy a car, fell 0.9 percentage point to 100.2 in August, roughly back in line with June’s subdued level. Its close proximity to 100 indicates that the proportion of respondents who were positive about car purchase environment is roughly the same as those who were negative.

The Gasoline Price Sentiment Indicator was down 0.3 percentage point, from 126.9 in July to 126.5 in August. The indicator has been in a holding pattern for more than a year now since oil prices began to crumble.

The planned car budget of Chinese families continued to trend towards the middle ranges in August with the more expensive bands falling out of favor. The largest percentage of responses went to the middle range of ¥100,000-¥140,000 ($17,323-$22,047) while the budget tier below commanded the second largest share.

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