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China auto sales fall 16.4% in May, 11th month of decline

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Auto sales in China fell 16.4% in May from the same month a year earlier, the country’s biggest auto industry association said on Wednesday, the 11th consecutive month of decline in the world’s largest vehicle market.

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FILE PHOTO: Newly manufactured cars are seen at the automobile terminal in the port of Dalian, Liaoning province, China July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer/File photo Sales fell to 1.91 million vehicles, said the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM).

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That followed declines of 14.6% in April and 5.2% in March, as well as the first annual contraction last year since the 1990s against a backdrop of slowing economic growth and a crippling trade war with the United States.

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Sales also suffered from provinces implementing “China VI” vehicle emission standards earlier than the central government’s 2020 deadline, stoking uncertainty among manufacturers, according to CAAM, analysts, dealers and consumers.

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In the new energy vehicle (NEV) segment, sales continued to rise in May, by 1.8% to 104,000 vehicles, CAAM said. Last year, though the broader market shrank, NEV sales jumped almost 62%.

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NEVs include petrol-electric hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrids, battery-only electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. China, blighted by air pollution, has been a keen supporter of NEVs, requiring automakers to meet sales quotas

Earlier this month, the government announced measures to revive slumping car sales, including stopping local authorities from imposing new restrictions on car purchases and eliminating restrictions that applied to NEVs

Contrary to market expectations, the measures did not include the relaxation of controls over the issuance of new licenses for petrol-powered cars in major cities

In May, most automakers reported a decline in China sales, except Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co Ltd which logged double-digit growth

Automakers have responded to the market slowdown with price cuts, while analysts have raised concern over long-term profitability

(This story corrects rise in May NEV sales to 1.8%, not 41.5%)

Reporting by Beijing Newsroom, Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Christopher Cushing