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Slowing growth for auto imports

2014-12-29 10:32 China Daily Web Editor: Qin Dexing
Cars imported from Europe are unloaded at the Chongqing Railway Station. Vehicle imports are projected to grow about 10 percent next year.WANG ZHENGWEI/FOR CHINA DAILY

Cars imported from Europe are unloaded at the Chongqing Railway Station. Vehicle imports are projected to grow about 10 percent next year.WANG ZHENGWEI/FOR CHINA DAILY

Report: Oversupply and local production dampen demand

Vehicle imports will likely decelerate in China as the economy slows and dealers attempt to move out existing oversupplies of inventory, said a report by one of the country's largest auto wholesalers.

Growth in imports will fall to about 10 percent in 2015 from an estimated 15 percent this year, according to the report from Sinomach Automobile Co.

Even single-digit growth is possible if some popular models are localized sooner than scheduled, said the report.

The estimates are based on China's slowing economy, a series of auto industry policies and excessive supplies in the imported auto market, said the report released at the annual China Imported Auto Forum in late November.

Supplies have outgrown demand since 2012, said Sinomach Automobile's chairman Ding Hongxiang.

Due to international automaker's soaring sales goals, dealers have been forced to import more than they can sell for the past two years, he explained.

The latest statistics show that China imported 1.05 million vehicles in the first 10 months of 2014, a 26.2-percent rise year-on-year, while 980,000 were sold in the same period, up 20 percent.

Though the number of unsold vehicles fell sharply in September compared to June, many insiders attributed much of it to discounts dealers are offering to customers.

Statistics show that imported vehicles sold in September were 54,000 yuan cheaper than the showroom sticker price. That means an 8-percent discount for all vehicles and a nearly 13-percent for cars, resulting in more financial pressure on dealers and slim profit margins.

Many dealers said they have no choice but to cut their inventory by offering deeper discounts.

But dwindling profit margins are straining relations between some international automakers and their dealers, Ding said when he addressed the forum.

He said automakers should change their rapid growth-oriented strategy and seek a sustainable road of development for their own operations and their authorized dealers.

Many insiders agree that automakers should speed up their pace of change as fundamentals in the industry are likely to shift in 2015 after changing policies on imports by non-authorized dealers and new-energy vehicles.

Ding estimated that growth in the auto market as a whole will slow to around 7 to 8 percent in 2015. The auto industry had an average compound growth rate of 25 percent from 2000 to 2010.

Market in 2014

The market for imports vehicles has changed in many ways this year, according to the report.

European brands still have the lion's share but it has fallen from 64 percent last year to 58 percent in September.

The share for US brands has grown from 12.6 percent to 16.7 percent in the same period. Imports of Cadillac cars have more than doubled and Ford has had a 70 percent surge.

But SUVs remain the most popular imported vehicles. Statistics show that a total of 655,000 SUVs were imported in the first three quarters of the year, 62.8 percent of the total.

In the first three quarters, nine out of 10 best-selling imported models at dealers were SUVs, with Toyota's Prado ranking first with sales of 34,700 units.

Imported sedan sales rose 23 percent rise while MPVs registered 17 percent growth.

By region, sales of imported vehicles are growing faster in central and western China.

Statistics show that nearly 45 percent of all imports sold in the country in the first nine months were sold in those regions, while the share in eastern and northern markets has gradual shrunk.

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