China monthly car sales pick up in April; EV sales double

FILE - In this April 25, 2018, file photo, attendees look at the Tang SUV by Chinese automaker BYD after a press conference at the China Auto Show in Beijing. An industry group says Chinese passenger car sales expanded at a faster pace in April 2018 as growth in the world's biggest auto market picked up steam. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

HONG KONG — Chinese passenger car sales expanded at a faster pace last month as growth in the world's biggest auto market picked up steam, an industry group said Friday.

Monthly figures from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show that passenger cars sales in April rose 11 percent over a year earlier to 1.9 million vehicles, outpacing a 3.5 percent growth rate in March.

Sales of "new-energy vehicles" such as electric cars and gasoline-electric hybrids more than doubled to 82,000.

China's communist leaders view electric vehicles as key to transforming China into a technological superpower. Global automakers including General Motors, Nissan and Volkswagen unveiled dozens of electric and hybrid vehicles at the Beijing auto show last month.

Recent moves by Beijing to loosen up restrictions on foreign ownership in the auto industry gave priority to the electric vehicle industry. Under the new rules, requirements for foreign car brands to team up with local state-owned partners will be scrapped by 2022, while limits on foreign ownership of electric vehicle producers will be eliminated this year.

The relaxed regulations came amid rising trade tensions between the U.S. and China that might dent U.S. auto imports — Ford vehicles are facing longer waits as Chinese customs agents tighten up inspections. The company said its China sales fell 26 percent in April to 69,503 vehicles.

China's total vehicle sales including trucks and buses rose 11.5 percent to 2.3 million.

The latest numbers are an improvement on uneven sales earlier this year and a lackluster performance last year as sales growth cooled following a surge in 2016 that was driven by tax cuts.

Automakers forecast total market growth for China this year of 3 to 4 percent, a fraction of earlier double-digit rates.

Must Read

US tycoon's China scholarship project opens doors in Beijing

Sep 10, 2016

A new scholarship program intended to rival the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships and build...

China says it can't end North Korea nuke program on its own

Sep 12, 2016

China says the United States has inflamed the conflict on the Korean Peninsula and must carry the...

Alibaba fires 4 employees accused of stealing mooncakes

Sep 14, 2016

Four employees at Chinese internet giant Alibaba have lost their jobs after being accused of...

Chinese carrier carries out fighter drills on open seas

Dec 24, 2016

China's military says its first aircraft carrier group has carried out a series of fighter launch,...

China's 1st aircraft carrier heads for Western Pacific

Dec 25, 2016

China's Defense Ministry says the country's first aircraft carrier has set off for the Western...