May 7, 2020 / 9:20 AM / a month ago

China auto sales likely rose in April, ending almost two years of decline

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a face mask pulls a trolley as she crosses the road near showrooms of car dealerships, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Beijing, China February 27, 2020. Picture taken February 27, 2020. REUTERS/Yilei Sun

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Vehicle sales in China likely rose in April from a year earlier, its top auto industry body said on Thursday, ending almost two years of declines and signalling that the world’s biggest auto market is recovering from the coronavirus shock.

April’s sales of 2 million units likely rose 0.9% from a year earlier, and 39.8% from March, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said in a post on its official WeChat account.

It added its forecast was based on sales data it had collected from key companies, without giving further details.

A gain in April would be the first rise in auto sales in China after 21 straight months of decline as the world’s second-largest economy slowed.

Still, the association expects vehicle sales in January-April to fall 32.1% on-year to 5.67 million units, after the government rolled out tough restrictions early in the year to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Many of those curbs on people’s movement have been rolled back in the past two months, allowing would-be buyers to visit showrooms again, while some local governments are offering incentives to revive car sales.

CAAM is expected to announce final April industry sales figures on May 11.

China has become one ray for hope for automakers including Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) and General Motors (GM.N) as the global auto industry has been badly hit by the coroanvirus pandemic.

Companies from Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd (0175.HK) to U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co’s (F.N) two ventures in China have reported year-on-year sales growth for April in recent days.

Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Kim Coghill

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