Sales of new vehicles in China tumbled in February, which is hardly surprising since much of the country was in lockdown mode due to the coronavirus pandemic. People who are sequestered inside their homes aren’t making many major purchases, they are just trying to survive. But there is a glimmer of hope for EV advocates, based on March sales numbers.
BYD only sold 2,533 electric cars and 206 plug-in hybrids in February. But it sold 10,433 electric cars and 1,330 PHEVs in March. That’s good news, sort of. Last year in March it sold more than 30,000 so-called new energy vehicles, according to Electrive, so the company definitely still has some catching up to do.
The Chinese government cut way back on its EV incentive programs at the end of last year and EV sales plummeted as a result. As a result, the government is considering a plan that would keep some of those incentives in place a little while longer and hold off on new tailpipe emission standards for particulates. According to Reuters, Xin Guobin, vice industry minister, said last week that China would “make adjustments on new energy vehicles and related policies to further promote the coordinated and healthy development of the automotive industry.”
NIO is another Chinese electric car manufacturer that has had tough sledding as well in recent months, but it actually managed to eke out a small year-over-year sales gain in March, according to Inside EVs. A company press release says, “NIO delivered 1,533 vehicles in March 2020, representing a robust 116.8% month-over-month growth mainly contributed by our recovering production capacity. The deliveries consisted of 1,479 ES6s, the Company’s 5-seater high-performance premium electric SUV, and 54 ES8s, the Company’s 7-seater high-performance premium electric SUV and its 6-seater variant.”
The paltry numbers for the ES8 are a concern, but the company has made more than 150 changes to that car to address some quality and range concerns expressed by early customers. An updated version of that car is now in production and ready for customers looking for an electric SUV with room for 6 or 7 passengers.
William Bin Li, CEO of NIO, adds, “We are pleased to see the gradual recovery of our production in March, with special thanks to the great support from our supply chain partners since the second half of March. In parallel with our continued online sales efforts, our in-store visits have also witnessed a gradual pickup. With the continuous support from our loyal user community, we have seen increasing order backlog since February.”
With so much bad news in the auto industry worldwide these days, any bright spot is more than welcome. And, of course, sales of the Chinese made Tesla Model 3 are very encouraging as well. With all the dark clouds around, that is a real glimmer of sunshine when we need it most.