Traffic moves along a bridge on the Chang Jiang river in Wuhan, China.
BEIJING: China’s main car association forecast that the world’s biggest automobile market will see slower growth this year as anti-pollution and austerity campaigns spread.
China, which in 2013 became the first country to see domestic sales surpass 20 million units a year, will see deliveries rise as much as 10 percent in 2014 after last year’s 14 percent growth, the state-backed China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said.
While China’s motorisation has been a boon for foreign carmakers — all the major ones saw record sales in the country in 2013 — pressure is building on the government to step in as pollution chokes residents and traffic congestion turns roads into parking lots.
The 23.74 million to 24.18 million in vehicle sales that the auto association is projecting for 2014 means Toyota, General Motors and Volkswagen may all continue to deliver a record number of cars in China.
GM, which counts China as its biggest market, saw sales climb 11 percent to 3.16 million in the country last year. Though the Detroit-based carmaker outsold all foreign carmakers in China for eight straight years, it may lose that lead when Volkswagen reports 2013 figures later this month. The Wolfsburg, Germany-based company surpassed its previous annual record by selling 2.96 million vehicles in the first 11 months.
Ford, which got a late start in China, benefited from the popularity of its Focus car, helping the company post the biggest growth among major foreign carmakers. China deliveries surged 49 percent to 935,813 units, outselling Toyota on annual basis for the first time.
Toyota, the global leader in auto sales, fell to No. 6 among foreign carmakers in China, though Japanese carmakers rebounded from the backlash of 2012, when a territorial dispute over a group of uninhabited islands led to violent protests that prompted Chinese consumers to shun Japanese-branded cars.
Toyota’s sales climbed 9.2 percent to a record 917,500 units in the country and forecast deliveries will climb to more than 1.1 million this year. Nissan and Honda also sold a record number of vehicles after posting declines in 2012.
By contrast, Chinese brands saw their combined market share at home fall 1.6 percentage points to 40.3 percent, according to the auto group. Exports dropped 7.5 percent, the first decline in five years, because of unstable overseas demand and insufficient competitiveness, it said. Ford’s Focus was the best-selling car last year, while Great Wall Motor Co’s Haval topped SUV sales.
Last year’s sales of passenger vehicles, excluding buses and commercial trucks, climbed to 17.93 million — or 15 percent more than the US auto industry — and may increase 9 percent to 11 percent this year, according to the auto association. The 21 percent increase in December was faster than estimated, according to Ole Hui, a Hong Kong-based analyst with Mizuho Securities Asia.