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China’s Car Sales Fell 6.8% in 2020, but That Still Likely Beats Other Markets

SHANGHAI—Chinese car sales declined 6.8% last year, as the world’s largest market for automobiles shrank for a third straight year.

Yet the single-digit drop counted as a success in the context of 2020, industry analysts said, with the coronavirus pandemic taking an even heavier toll on other markets. Global car sales are estimated to have fallen 15% last year, according to research firm IHS Markit , while U.S. sales are also expected to have dropped about 15%.

“In Q1 we projected much, much worse,” said Lin Huaibin, an auto analyst at IHS Markit, after sales in China slumped 41% in the March quarter, during which parts of the country were in lockdown.

Auto makers in China sold 19.29 million passenger vehicles last year, the China Passenger Car Association said Monday, down roughly a fifth on 2017, the market’s peak.

“This year will see a much stronger growth,” said Cui Dongshu, the association’s secretary-general. The group expects car sales in China to rise 7% in 2021.

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