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Double whammy: China auto and NEV sales both fall in 2019

Highlights:

NEV sales accounted for 4.68 percent of auto sales. China wants to increase that proportion five-fold to 25 percent by 2025;
BEVs accounted for more than 80 percent of NEVs sold;
Auto sales nearly returned to positive growth in December, falling by just 0.1 percent year-on-year;
SUV production exceeded passenger car production for the second consecutive month, topping one million units for the first time ever;
German and Japanese brand passenger vehicles gained market share, while Chinese, American, Korean and French brand passenger vehicles lost market share;
Heavy-duty truck sales hit another all-time record of 1.17 million units after a record 2018 that saw sales reach nearly 1.15 million units;
About 1.02 million automobiles were exported, down 1.6 percent;
Fuel-cell vehicle sales reached 2,737 units;
Power battery production reached 85.4 GWh, up 21 percent, while supply to OEMs reached 62.2 GWh, up 9.2 percent;
China had 1.22 million charging poles (public+private) by the end of 2019, putting the ratio of NEVs (based on 4.2 million units) to charging poles at 3.4 to 1;
CAAM has predicted that auto sales will fall for the third consecutive year in 2020, by 2 percent to about 25.3 million units.

BEIJING – It was a case of “double whammy” for China’s auto market in 2019.

Auto sales fell for the second consecutive year and new energy vehicle sales dropped for the first time on a yearly basis since sales data became available in 2011, according to data released by China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) on January 13.

Full year auto sales fell 8.2 percent to 25.77 million units, while NEV sales dropped 4 percent to just under 1.21 million units.

Auto sales fell for the 18th consecutive month in December, and NEV sales dropped for the sixth consecutive month since July 2019, after NEV subsidies were cut by more than half.

Sales of automobiles in December 2019 (in million units)

DEC 2019% MOM% YOYYTD% YOY
Total2.658 8.2 -0.1 25.769 -8.2 
Passenger vehicle2.213 7.6 -0.9 21.444 -9.6 
Car1.026 6.6 -0.4 10.308 -10.7 
MPV0.148 19.9 -16.1 1.384 -20.2 
SUV0.991 6.0 1.2 9.353 -6.3 
Microvan0.048 34.6 1.7 0.400 -11.7 
Commercial vehicle0.445 11.3 3.9 4.324 -1.1 
Bus0.063 29.8 -2.5 0.474 -2.2 
Large0.014 133.3 13.8 0.075 -2.6 
Medium0.011 57.1 -14.1 0.067 -9.5 
Light0.039 11.4 -2.0 0.333 -0.6 
Truck0.382 8.7 5.1 3.850 -0.9 
Heavy-duty0.092 -9.8 11.5 1.174 2.3 
Medium0.012 0.0 -16.1 0.139 -21.5 
Light0.193 12.2 -2.3 1.883 -0.6 
Micro0.084 27.3 21.2 0.653 -2.0 

Auto sales almost squeezed out a positive growth in December, falling by just 0.1 percent year-on-year to 2.66 million units, continuing a string of consecutive monthly sales declines dating back to July 2018, though the severity of the drop drastically shrunk in December.

Sales of passenger vehicles decreased 0.9 percent to 2.21 million units in December, while that of commercial vehicles increased 3.9 percent on a yearly basis to 445,000 units in the month.

All passenger vehicle segments experienced sales declines in the month except SUVs and microvans which grew 1.2 and 1.7 percent, respectively.

Passenger car sales in December reached 1.03 million units, down 0.4 percent year-on-year, while SUV sales reached 991,000 units. Sales of MPVs dropped 16.1 percent to 148,000 units, while those of microvans reached 48,000 units.

Chinese brand passenger vehicle sales reached 929,000 units in December, a decrease of 5.2 percent on a yearly basis and taking up 42 percent of total passenger vehicle sales in the month, down 1.9 percentage points from the same month in 2018.

In the commercial vehicle segment in December, bus sales reached 63,000 units, down 2.5 percent year-on-year, while truck sales reached 382,000 units, up 5.1 percent from the same month a year ago.

Sales of NEVs in December 2019 (in million units)

DEC 2019% MOM% YOYYTD% YOY
Total0.163 71.4-27.41.206 -4.0 
PV0.125 64.0-24.51.0600.7
BEV0.105 66.8-22.10.8345.9
PHEV0.020 50.9-35.00.226-14.7
CV0.038 101.2-35.30.146-28.3
BEV0.035 93.9-38.10.137-29.9
PHEV0.001 94.3124.80.005-4.7 

NEV sales in December improved a bit compared with previous months of the second half of 2019, falling “just” 27.4 percent to 163,000 units.

In 2019, sales of passenger vehicles were 21.44 million units, a drop of 9.6 percent, while that of commercial vehicles were 4.32 million units, down 1.1 percent. In particular, heavy-duty truck sales hit another all-time record of 1.17 million units, up 2.6 percent from the record of 1.15 million units sold in 2018. Pickup sales reached 452,000 units, down 4.7 percent year-on-year.

Export of automobiles reached 1.02 million units, down 1.6 percent. Those of passenger vehicles reached 725,000 units, down 4.3 percent, while those of commercial vehicles reached 299,000 units, up 5.7 percent.

The top 10 automakers by sales for the year were SAIC, Dongfeng, FAW, BAIC, GAC, Chang’an, Geely, Great Wall, Brilliance and Chery. Their combined sales in the period reached 23.29 million units, taking up 90.4 percent of total automobile sales.

Chinese brand passenger vehicle sales decreased 15.8 percent to 8.41 million units in 2019, taking up 39.2 percent of total passenger vehicle sales.

The top 10 Chinese brand passenger vehicle manufacturers by sales in 2019 were SAIC, Geely, Great Wall, Chang’an, Chery, Dongfeng, BYD, BAIC, GAC and FAW. Their combined sales were 7.75 million units, accounting for 92.2 percent of total Chinese brand passenger vehicle sales.

Battery electric vehicle sales totaled 972,000 units in 2019, while plug-in hybrid electric vehicle sales reached 232,000 units, a decrease of 1.2 and 12.1 percent respectively. Fuel-cell vehicle sales grew 79.2 percent to 2,737 units in 2019.

Data provided by China Automotive Power Battery Industrial Innovation Alliance showed that China’s total power battery production reached 85.4 GWh in 2019, up 21 percent from 2018. That volume included 55.1 GWh of tertiary batteries and 27.7 GWh of lithium-iron phosphate batteries, taking up 64.6 and 32.4 percent of total power battery production in 2019.

Supply of power batteries in terms of OEM installation in 2019 reached 62.2 GWh, up 9.2 percent, which included 40.5 GWh of tertiary batteries and 20.2 GWh of lithium-iron phosphate batteries, respectively, up 22.5 and down 9 percent year-on-year and taking up 65.2 and 32.5 percent of total battery supply for the year.

The top 10 power battery suppliers in term of OEM installation in 2019 were CATL, BYD, Guoxuan Hi-Tech, Lishen, EVE Energy, CALB, CATL-SAIC, Farasis Energy, BAK and Sunwoda. Together they supplied 54.7 GWh of batteries, accounting for 88 percent of the total OEM installation.

By the end of 2019, China had 516,000 public charging poles, including 301,000 AC charging poles, 215,000 DC charging poles and 488 AC/DC charging poles, according to data provided by China Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Promotion Alliance. The number of public charging poles increased at a pace of 15,000 per month during 2019.

Adding the 703,000 private charging poles available, China had nearly 1.22 million charging poles in total by the end of 2019. The ratio of NEVs (based on 4.2 million units sold as of the end of 2019) to charging poles reached about 3.4:1 by yearend.

Sales of PVs 2006-2019 (in 10,000 units)


Sales of CVs 2006-2019 (in 10,000 units)


Sales of NEVs 2013-2019 (in 10,000 units)


Sales of pickups 2012-2019 (in 10,000 units)


Automobile export 2008-2019 (in 10,000 units)

China Automobile Review agrees with CAAM that auto sales will fall slightly again this year but will maintain a level of above 25 million units. We also believe NEV sales will return to growth as the country maintains a stable NEV policy (no significant cuts in subsidies) in the final year of NEV subsidy availability, introduces additional non-subsidy measures to maintain momentum, and as more NEV models hit the market and charging infrastructure further improves.

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