Chinese Car Buying Environment Improves

Smaller Cars Gain Favour as SUV Popularity Slips
MNI Indicators
2016-04-06 16:50 2124

BEIJING, April 6, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Consumers were more enthusiastic about the car purchasing environment in March as a fall in expected fuel costs combined with a more favourable perception of the current timing for buying a car.

The Car Purchase Indicator -- a composite indicator designed to gauge future demand for cars -- rose to 91.4 in March from 88.2 in February, marking its third consecutive increase and the highest reading since May 2014. Despite the rise, sentiment remained below the 100 break even level with households still wary about making large outlays amid an uncertain economic outlook. Among those who said it was a good time to buy a car, most cited prices as the key factor.

The results of a special quarterly question showed that SUV popularity slipped in favour of its smaller cousin, the hatchback. In March Sedans were again the car of choice with 30% of responses while SUVs gained 22% of responses, down from 30% in December 2015. 29% of respondents said they would buy a hatchback if they were to buy a car today.

When asked about the make of car they favoured most, the top brand rankings were little changed compared with last quarter. Volkswagen remained the most popular brand, with 20% of responses, although this was down from 25% in December, followed by Buick with a 13% share and Honda and Audi which tied for third place with equal 8% shares. BYD was the most popular domestic brand, and shot up nine places to fifth most popular with 5% of responses compared with 2.4% in December.

Meanwhile, 44.2% of respondents said they currently owned a car, up slightly from 42.5% in February. There did not appear to be any plans to continue to revise up this figure, with the proportion of consumers planning to buy a car in the next 12 months falling significantly to 13.9% in March from 16.1% previously. Further detail indicates that the drop was driven primarily by a significant reduction in additional purchases with the percentage of consumers planning to buy their first car edging up marginally over the month.

The planned car budget of Chinese families sat firmly in the middle ranges in March, although there was also an increase in the percentage of budgets in the top tier. The largest percentage of responses went to the mid range of CNY 100,000 -- CNY 140,000 while there was a jump in those in the over CNY 200,000 range, which commanded the next highest proportion of responses.

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Source: MNI Indicators