According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), domestic vehicle sales increased 3% year-on-year in 2017, to 28.88 million units, a sales increase far lower than the 10% rise seen in 2016. The slower growth was due to higher taxes on smaller cars and subsidy adjustments on electric vehicles. Passenger car sales, led by Volkswage, increased 1.4% (among those SUV sales rose by 13.3%, to 10.25 million units), while sales of minibuses/multi-purpose vehicles plunged 20% and 17% respectively. Commercial vehicles recorded robust demand with sales increasing 14%, to 4.16 million units. In 2018 it is expected that vehicle sales will increase as much as 5% year on-year.
Whilst Government of China views its automotive industry, including the auto parts sector, as one of the country’s pillar industries, Electric cars remain a promising segment, as the government still provides substantial subsidies to manufacturers, while customers are offered incentive and favourable discounts for purchasing. State-owned institutions are encouraged to buy more new energy vehicles. The electric car market grew 53.3% in 2017, to about 780,000 units, while sales increased 111.5% in H1 of 2018
However, concerns over overcapacity are rising, as there are currently more than 200 electric-vehicle projects in China with investment of over CNY 1,026 billion and a potential capacity of more than 21 million units, while the government-set target aims at just 7 million units on the road by 2025. In order to guide the industry, the Chinese state is gradually reducing subsidies. Stricter rules are also set to raise the subsidy threshold, which will force automakers to increasingly convert themselves into hi-tech companies with core competencies. In this way, low-cost manufactures will leave the stage.
It seems that the Chinese car market is rather resilient in the light of the ongoing Sino-US trade dispute. Vehicle import and export volumes (1.25 million units and 1.06 million units respectively) are quite small compared to the industry output (29 million in 2017). The government has recently taken several measures to boost the automotive market. Since July 2018 import duties on vehicles have been slashed to 15% from 25%, while duties for car parts have been lowered to 6% from around 10%. The additional 25% tit-for-tat tariff is only imposed on products made in the USA. At the same time China announced it will ease limits on joint ventures within five years and open up the market to overseas carmakers. The rules will be loosened on electric cars this year, commercial vehicles by 2020 and passenger cars in 2022. All that should ensure a solid and steady performance of the domestic automotive market in the coming years. However, despite its resilience a major escalation of the current Sino-US trade dispute would surely impact the automotive business along with other sectors (e.g. potential deterioration of business and consumer sentiment).
New Energy Vehicles
Made in China 2025 is an initiative to upgrade the country’s industry from low cost mass production to higher value-added advanced manufacturing. It prioritizes 10 sectors, including the auto sector (and NEVs). The initiative’s objectives are to sell one million units of domestically produced pure electric and plug-in hybrid cars in China by 2020, which should account for a minimum of 70% of the country’s market share. Moreover, it aims to sell three million domestic brand units by 2025, and account for a minimum of 80% of the country’s market share.
The NEV market in China is dominated by domestic brands including BAIC, BYD, and JAC. A draft measure has been released for public comment that aims to set NEV production targets for both domestic and foreign automakers operating in the Chinese market. Automakers that do not meet this target would need to purchase NEV credits from other automakers that exceeded it.
China’s RV market has undergone significant changes over the past several years, including a national focus on the development of tourism, campgrounds and the RV industry. With a growing demand for RVs and a shift in consumers' travel preferences, tourism experts in China anticipate a surge of RV-related businesses in the coming years. According to the “2016 China Campground Industry Report”, there are total of 958 campgrounds in China, of which 489 are under construction. There were about 25,000 RVs in China by 2016. 33% of the campgrounds are located along the eastern part of China, for instance Shandong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong), while another 22% are in western China, for instance Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. There are currently around 80 RV manufacturers in China, of which 56 are active. It is predicted that the campground industry will hit a trillion RMB market ($145 billion USD) by 2020, which will also stimulate the RV industry’s development.
China has made a push in recent years to develop domestic tourism, including campgrounds and the RV industry. Campground development has received great support from the central government. The China National Tourism Administration, together with 10 other ministries, released “Several Opinions on Promoting the Development of Self-Driving Tourism” on November 9, 2016. This set a target of building 2,000 campgrounds by 2020, and allows vehicles to tow trailers which are less than 2.5 tons.
However, the RV industry faces issues such as lack of standards and regulations, as well as the luxury car consumption tax challenge. China Customs does not have an HS code for RVs, so RVs are treated as automobiles upon import. This means imported RVs have to pay the same high tariffs and duties as imported cars.