Manufacturing News

Auto industry prepares for challenging quarter

Chronic shortages set to affect production and sales, leading industry association forecasts

Chip shortages are continuing to hurt car production in China. As a result, the country's leading industry association said total deliveries for 2021 may fall short of its estimate made earlier in the year.

Manufacturers produced 2.08 million vehicles last month, down 17.9 percent from the same month last year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Sales saw a deeper decline at 19.6 percent year-on-year, with just 2.07 million vehicles sold in the country.

Chen Shihua, deputy secretary-general of the association, said car chip supplies were higher in September than in previous months, but still fell short of demand.

The shortages, coupled with a higher comparative base last year, resulted in production and sales slumps last month, he said.

Chen said power shortages in some parts of the country are also affecting production.

"Considering all these factors, sales figures for this year may be lower than expected," he said.

The association initially estimated that vehicle deliveries could exceed 26 million units, up 4 percent from 2020. In the first three quarters, sales totaled 18.62 million, up 8.7 percent from the same period last year.

But Xu Haidong, deputy chief engineer of the association, said sales in the fourth quarter are very likely to fall year-on-year because the figure was high in the same period last year.

Many carmakers are suffering from chip shortages. Japanese automakers Honda, Nissan and Toyota saw their sales in China tumble during September.

Honda sold 121,448 vehicles, down 28 percent from a year earlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a shortage of components.

Nissan said it sold 104,443 cars, down 26 percent, due to "external headwinds including the ongoing pandemic, cross-industry material shortages, slowdowns, and increased competition." Toyota said it sold 115,000 cars, down 36 percent.

General Motors did not disclose monthly figures, but its sales in China during the third-quarter stood at 623,500 vehicles, down 19.2 percent from the same period in 2020.

"Sales were impacted by the ongoing global semiconductor supply chain disruption," according to GM, the largest carmaker in the United States.

A breakdown of its sales show that four of the five brands available in China saw precipitous drops in their third quarter sales compared with the same quarter in 2020.

China's largest SUV and pickup maker Great Wall Motors sold 100,022 vehicles in September, down 15.4 percent from the same month last year.

The sweeping chip shortages have affected production, but the Baoding-based carmaker in Hebei province said it has been trying its best to acquire semiconductors.

Geely, China's largest private carmaker, delivered 103,936 vehicles last month, down 18 percent year-on-year. It cited COVID-19 and chip shortages as factors that curbed its production and deliveries.

The carmaker has over 100,000 vehicles on its order book, according to company CEO Gan Jiayue.

NEV sales soar

As in previous months, new energy vehicles, which include electric cars and plug-in hybrids, continued their momentum in September.

Production and sales reached 353,000 and 357,000 units, respectively, both logging a year-on-year growth of 150 percent, according to CAAM data.

The association said their production and sales in September both set new monthly records. Without chip shortages, they could have been higher.

NEV sales made up 17.3 percent of total vehicle deliveries last month. In the segment of passenger vehicles, their proportion was even higher, at 19.5 percent, the CAAM said.

In the first three quarters, NEV sales totaled about 2.16 million units, up 190 percent year-on-year.

Xu, the CAAM's deputy chief-engineer, expects sales to grow at a fast pace in the fourth quarter. "NEV sales could hit 3 million this year," he said.

China's BYD, headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, delivered over 70,000 new energy vehicles in September, ranking as the most popular NEV producer.

United States carmaker Tesla came in second last month. It produced about 56,000 electric vehicles at its Shanghai plant. Over 52,000 were sold in the country.

Its sales in China during the first three quarters exceeded 200,000 units and the carmaker exported around 100,000 vehicles from its Shanghai plant.

Other popular NEV makers include SAIC-GM-Wuling, producer of the popular two-seater Hong Guang MINI EV, and GAC Aion.

Chinese startups Nio and Xpeng each saw their monthly sales exceed 10,000 units for the first time in September.

Ma Lin, a Nio executive, said its sales in the fourth quarter would be better than in the third quarter as long as chip shortages do not happen similar to last month as orders flew in fast.

Sales of Volkswagen's electric cars in China also exceeded 10,000 units.

The German carmaker, which rolled out its first electric model on its new platform earlier this year, expected sales this year to reach between 800,000 and 1 million units in the country.

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