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China auto sales rise 7.9 per cent in May as electrics surge

BEIJING — China's auto sales rose 7.9 per cent in May from a year earlier as purchases of electric and gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles more than doubled to 102,000, an industry group reported Tuesday.

Sales of SUVs, sedans and minivans rose to 1.9 million, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, rose 9.6 per cent to 2.3 million.

Year-to-date sales rose 5.1 per cent to 9.9 million, rebounding from 2017's annual growth of just 1.4 per cent .

Sales of electric and gasoline-electric hybrids rose 126 per cent over a year earlier. Through May, sales of electrics and hybrids rose 142 per cent to 328,000.

Beijing has spent heavily to transform China into the world's biggest electric car market and is preparing to enforce sales quotas to press global automakers to speed up development.

The Finance Ministry says auto import duties will be reduced from 25 per cent to 15 per cent on most vehicles, effective July 1. That followed pledges to buy more U.S. goods and end restrictions on foreign ownership in the industry.

Ford Motor Co. responded by announcing a cut in prices of imported models. But industry analysts say automakers including Ford, General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG are likely to gain little in sales, because most of their vehicles sold in China are produced in local factories.

The tariff cut is likely to benefit high-end European and Japanese brands such as BMW AG, VW's Audi unit and Toyota Motor Co.'s Lexus that import more of their vehicles, as well as Tesla, the electric car brand that has no China factory, according to industry analysts.

— Nissan Motor Co. sales rose 14.3 per cent to 128,059. For the five months through May, sales gained 10.8 per cent to 589,409.

— Toyota sales rose 10.9 per cent to 122,400. Year-to-date sales gained 10.9 per cent to 562,200.

— Volkswagen AG said May sales rose 4.1 per cent to 251,600. Sales so far this year are up 7.9 per cent at 1.2 million.

— BMW AG said sales of BMW and MINI brand vehicles shrank 10.1 per cent to 45,860. Year-to-date sales were up 2.5 per cent at 248,870.

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China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (in Chinese): www.caam.org.cn

The Associated Press