Figures also show appetite for Chinese-manufactured NEVs overseas
Vehicle production and sales in China saw their best September last month, beating the expectations of the country's leading trade association.
In all, 2.85 million vehicles rolled off the country's assembly lines in September, up 6.6 percent year-on-year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Some 2.41 million units were sold in the Chinese market, up 4.5 percent year-on-year.
Chen Shihua, deputy secretary-general of the CAAM, said the performance in that month and the third quarter as a whole was better than expected, thanks to a slew of consumption-stimulating policies as well as carmakers' recent launches of new models.
In the first nine months of this year, 17.68 million vehicles were sold in China, up 1.9 percent year-on-year, he said.
Chen added that sales momentum is building and will continue into the fourth quarter. The CAAM estimated in September that vehicle sales in the country this year will see a 3 percent rise or higher over 2022.
Yet carmakers saw a different performance. SAIC Motor sold 482,188 vehicles in September, down 6.75 percent year-on-year.
A closer look revealed that the sales fall was primarily the result of lackluster performance at its joint ventures SAIC GM and SAIC Volkswagen. However, its own brands, ranging from MG and Roewe to IM, saw double-digit growth in the month.
Great Wall Motor, China's largest SUV and pickup maker, sold 121,632 new vehicles in September, up 29.89 percent year-on-year.
The company, headquartered in Baoding, Hebei province, delivered 864,045 vehicles via its five marques in the first nine months of this year.
Of its marques, Haval seized the lion's share of September's sales, with its deliveries totaling 73,766 units, up 37 percent year-on-year.
BMW topped the list of premium vehicle makers in the Chinese market in terms of sales. The German company delivered 602,835 BMW and MINI-branded vehicles to Chinese buyers in the first three quarters, around 10,000 units more from the same period of 2022. Of them, 69,603 were electric vehicles, soaring 232 percent year-on-year, as a result of BMW's rapid shift toward electrification.
Mercedes-Benz sold 201,500 new vehicles in the third quarter in China. They brought the carmaker's deliveries in the country to 578,700 units in the January-September period, up 3 percent year-on-year.
Besides a better-than-expected sales performance within the country, the CAAM saw vehicle exports continue momentum in September, especially those of new energy vehicles. The association's statistics show that NEV exports soared nearly 93 percent year-on-year, helping consolidate China's position as the world's No 1 vehicle exporter.
More than 96,000 electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids from both international carmakers like Tesla and local marques such as SAIC were shipped overseas in September.
The growing popularity of Chinese-made NEVs helped drive the country's total vehicle exports in the month to 444,000 units, up nearly 48 percent year-on-year.
The CAAM said September was the second month in a row to see China's outbound vehicle shipments exceed 400,000 units.
China's NEV exports from January to September reached 825,000 units, up 110 percent year-on-year. They brought the country's total vehicle exports to 3.39 million units in the same period, up 60 percent year-on-year.
Xu Haidong, vice-chief engineer of the CAAM, said he expects total vehicle exports this year to hit a record high of 4.5 million units.
The top three destinations for Chinese-made NEVs are Belgium, Thailand and the United Kingdom, said the CAAM.
Some 95 percent, or 91,000 units, of NEV exports in September were passenger vehicles, a sign of a warming reception among private car buyers overseas, said the China Passenger Car Association.
Great Wall Motor saw its overseas sales surge in September. A total of 30,018 vehicles were sold outside of the Chinese market in the month, up 59.36 percent year-on-year.
Its overseas sales from January to September totaled 211,696 units, up 89.45 percent year-on-year.
BYD said it has been the bestselling EV brand in Thailand for nine months in a row.
A growing number of Chinese carmakers have started to explore overseas markets. Arcfox, an EV marque of BAIC Group, said last week that it plans to start selling EVs in Japan from 2024 with Turing, a Japanese startup.