China's auto sales fall 17% in April, extending slump


BEIJING –China's auto sales sank 17.7% in April from a year earlier, the 10th straightmonth of decline amid trade tension with Washington and an economic slowdown.

Drivers inthe industry's biggest global market bought 1.6 million sedans, SUVs andminivans, according to an industry group, the China Association of AutoManufacturers. Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, fell 14.6% to 2million.

Jittery customersare less willing to make big purchases amid a tariff war with Washington andunease about China's economic outlook. Growth in the second-largest globaleconomy held steady in the latest quarter but that was supported by governmentstimulus spending and higher bank lending.


The downturnis squeezing Chinese and global automakers that are pouring money into meetinggovernment marks to develop electric vehicles.

Auto salesfor the first four months of the year are off 14.7% from a year earlier at 6.8million, according to CAAM.

Sales byChinese brands in April plunged 27.9% from a year earlier to 585,000. Theirmarket share contracted by 5.2 percentage points to 37.1%.

Purchasesof electric and gasoline-electric hybrid SUVs and sedans rose 18.1% to 97,000.That was a bright spot for the industry but well below growth rates of as muchas 100% in previous months.

Beijing haspromoted electrics with billions of dollars in research grants and buyersubsidies. But subsidies are due to end next year and regulators are shiftingthe burden to automakers by imposing required sales targets for electrics.

Soautomakers need to develop electrics that can compete with gasoline-poweredvehicles.

Sales ofSUVs fell 15.8%, CAAM said, without giving a total.

Last year'sauto sales suffered their first decline in nearly three decades, falling 4.1%from 2017 to 23.7 million.

Thedownturn has prompted suggestions Beijing will cut sales taxes or offer otherincentives.

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