Wednesday 12 June 2019 12:03 pm

Slamming on the brakes: Chinese car sales suffer steepest ever annual decline

The Chinese car market suffered its largest ever monthly sales drop in May, bolstering concerns around the country’s economic slowdown.

Sales fell 16.4 per cent last month compared to the same period last year, said the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). The drop is the 11th straight month of decline, after falls of 14.6 per cent in April and 5.2 per cent in March.

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CAAM assistant secretary general Xu Haidong said the drop was in part down to provinces in China enforcing the country’s strict upcoming emissions rules before central government brought them in. This was stoking uncertainty among manufacturers, he said.

“We gave the manufacturers too little time to prepare,” he said. The industry’s supply chains were finding it difficult to keep up with changes in the market.

China’s car sales declined on an annual basis last year for the first time in 20 years, as trade tensions with the US and a cooling economy curtailed its 1.4bn people’s desire to buy cars.

Read more: Chinese car sales fall for tenth straight month

Industry executives have said they think the market will return to growth in the second half of the year, after the government announced measures to revive sales. These included stopping local authorities from putting new restrictions on purchases, and scrapping restrictions on some electric vehicles.

The measures did not include industry subsidies, however. Xu said it was unrealistic to expect such support.