China’s auto sales rise in November, but down for the year

BEIJING — China’s sales of SUVs, minivans and sedans rose by double digits in November as the country recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, but were below pre-virus levels for the year, an industry group reported today.

Sales in the industry’s biggest global market rose 11.6% over a year earlier to 2.3 million, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, rose 12.6% to 2.8 million, holding steady at October’s growth rate.

From January to November, passenger vehicle sales were off 7.6% from the same period of 2019, at 17.8 million. Sales of commercial vehicles rose 20.6% to 4.7 million.

Full-year auto sales are on track to decline for a third year after hitting a peak in 2017.

China, where the pandemic began in December, became the first country to reopen its economy after the disease was declared under control in March.

November sales of all-electric and gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles more than doubled, rising 104.9% over a year earlier. Sales in the first 11 months of 2020 edged back above pre-virus levels, rising 3.9% over a year earlier.

Auto demand already was weak before China closed factories and dealerships in February to fight the coronavirus. Consumers are uneasy about slowing economic growth and a tariff war with Washington.

That hurts global automakers that are looking to China to propel sales growth and are spending heavily to develop electric vehicles under pressure to meet Chinese government sales quotas.