China’s new energy vehicle sales hit record high in September, overall car sales fell nearly 20% on year

China’s new energy vehicle sales soared to an all-time high in September while overall car sales slid nearly 20 per cent on year amid the ongoing shortage of automotive chips.

Sales of new energy vehicles (NEVs) surged 148.4 per cent year over year in September to hit an all-time high of 357,000 units, rising 11.4 per cent from the previous month, according to data released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), the largest automobile industry body in the country. Last month’s NEV output reached 353,000 units, showed the data.

China’s monthly NEV sales, in 10,000 units. Chart from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM).

Another industry body released similar figures on the same day. Some 334,000 NEVs were sold last month, more than tripling from September 2020, the China Passenger Car Association said.

The country’s NEV penetration – NEV share in the total car sales – reached 17.3 per cent in September, with penetration of new energy passenger cars reaching 19.5 per cent, showed the data.

Overall, China sold 2.1 million automobiles of all types last month, sliding 19.6 per cent from a year earlier, due to the automotive chip shortage and the high comparison point of last year, according to the CAAM.

The shortage in automotive chips eased slightly in September, but chip makers were still unable to meet carmakers’ chip demand, said the CAAM. Restrictions on power use in some Chinese regions also affected auto productions last month, it added.

During the ongoing month, an insufficient semiconductor supply may still limit carmakers’ output, the CPCA predicted.

The country’s NEV sales are expected to top 3 million units this year, said Xu Haidong, a CAAM official. Data from the association showed that the country sold 2.157 million NEVs during the first nine months of the year.

Retail sales of passenger vehicles in China fell 17.3 per cent to nearly 1.6 million units last month from the same period last year, according to the CPCA. The figure is down 27.8 per cent from a peak logged in September 2017.

This year, the auto market has been recovering after a multi-year slump. During the first nine months of the year, China sold about 18.6 million units of all types of vehicles, up 8.7 per cent from a year earlier, according to the CAAM.

Electric vehicles have been shining brighter than others. During the nine-month period, NEV sales jumped more than 200 per cent to 1.8 million units, according to the CPCA.

Leading Chinese carmakers have resilient industrial chains to cope with the chip shortage, driving the NEV sales bump, said the CPCA.

Three automakers have made up almost half of all NEV sales this year. BYD was No. 1, selling more than 69,800 units, followed by Tesla with its nearly 52,200 units. SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile was No. 3 with almost 37,200 vehicles.

Separately, newly installed automotive power battery reached 15.7 GWh in September, jumping 138.6 per cent from a year earlier, up 25 per cent from the previous month, according to data from the China Automotive Power Battery Industry Innovation Alliance on Tuesday.

In the first nine months of the year, total installed automotive power battery reached 90 GWh, rising 169.1% from a year earlier, it said.

China produced 23.2 GWh power batteries in September, surging 168.9 per cent from a year earlier, up 18.9 per cent from the prior month, according to the data.