Growth of Auto Sales Slows in China


Automobile sales in China rose 6.9 percent to 23.5 million in 2014 – another record for the worlds largest auto market.

Growth of its automobile population has been a major factor in the rapid rise of lubricant demand in China. But the 2014 increase in passenger car and commercial vehicle sales was barely half of what it was in 2013, and analysts said these lower growth rates will probably continue in coming years.

The rise in sales for 2014 was solely due to an increase in numbers of passenger cars, according to data released last week by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Car sales rose 9.9 percent to 19.7 million, while commercial vehicle sales fell 6.7 percent to 3.8 million. Commercial vehicle sales in China peaked in 2010 at 4.3 million, while sales of passenger cars have continued rising.

Preferences of Chinese motorists apparently continued shifting toward bigger cars. Sales of sport utility vehicles jumped 36.4 percent to 4.1 million, so their sales now account for 21 percent of the passenger car category. Sales of multipurpose vehicles rose 46.8 percent, albeit from a smaller base.

Analysts say sport utility vehicles will remain popular thanks to falling fuel prices. But demand for alternative energy vehicles is also rising rapidly. Sales of new energy vehicles more than tripled in 2014 to 74,763 units.

Domestic automakers continued losing market share to foreign manufacturers. Sales of Chinese models rose 4.1 percent, but their share of total car sales decreased by 2.1 percent. The association did not mention specific numbers in last weeks announcement, but domestic companies held 40.3 percent of the market in 2013.

The number of vehicle exports fell 6.9 percent in 2014 to 910,400 units, the association said. Of these, 533,000 were passenger cars and 377,300 commercial vehicles. Imports, on the other hand, made a big jump. The association said it only had import data through November, but that imports were up 20.7 percent at that point to 1.3 million units. The association projected that the number of imports would reach 1.4 million by the end of the year.

China continues to distance itself from the worlds second-largest auto market, the United States. Early projections estimate that U.S. sales rose 5.9 percent in 2014 to 16.5 million. The U.S. was long the worlds largest lubricant market, but China caught up during the past decade. For the past several years, analysts have disagreed about which market is now largest.

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