China auto sales mark first gain in almost two years as virus curbs ease

FILE PHOTO: Newly manufactured cars are seen at a port in Dalian, Liaoning province, China April 10, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s monthly auto sales rose for the first time in almost two years in April, industry data showed, as more customers visited showrooms after the economy began to open up and authorities loosened coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

Auto sales in April hit 2.07 million units in the world’s biggest car market, up 4.4% from a year earlier, according to data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), the country’s largest auto industry association.

This follows a 43% drop in March and a sharper 79% plunge in February as the pandemic pummelled auto demand. Monthly auto sales in China last rose in June 2018.

The number of new energy vehicles (NEVs) sold fell for a tenth straight month to 72,000 units, the data showed. NEVs include battery-powered electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

The global auto industry has been hit hard by the health crisis, but there is growing optimism of improvement in business in China as the country has largely contained the outbreak and started easing lockdown measures.

Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) reported positive China sales in April, while General Motors’ (GM.N) China ventures saw double-digit year-on-year growth last month.

Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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