“We were heavily affected during quarter one of course, and massively in China,” with a 30 percent on-year sales drop, Goller told reporters. But the second quarter saw a 17 percent rebound and this quarter “is running really well.”
“You can say confidence is back,” Goller said.
China’s typically busy car-buying season, “Golden September, Silver October,” is off to a good start, according to preliminary data, with passenger car sales up 12 percent in the first 20 days of September.
The rebound means this year’s sales will fall less than 10 percent, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers estimates, better than its May forecast of a 15 percent to 25 percent decline.
Much of the upturn is driven by sales of larger passenger cars by makers such as Daimler and BMW, boosted by new models, automakers’ discounts and a broader recovery in the world’s second-largest economy.
Premium vehicles accounted for a record 15 percent of the Chinese market in August, up from around 10 percent for all of last year, said the China Passenger Car Association.
Electric vehicles are also providing buzz to the Beijing show, as a boom in Tesla shares has propelled interest in China. EV startups like Nio, Xpeng, Li Auto and WM Motor have together raised more than $8 billion this year.
But the recent improvement reflects Chinese automakers making earlier model launches as they could not wait for the usual hype from the delayed show before going to market. That suggests a more limited upside to the current sales rise.