BEIJING — China’s auto sales sank for a fourth month in October, tumbling 13 percent from a year earlier, an industry group reported Friday, adding to an unexpectedly painful downturn for global automakers in their biggest market.
Sales of SUVs, sedans and minivans in the crowded, competitive market contracted to just over 2 million units, the China Association of Auto Manufacturers reported.
The slump hit at an awkward time when global automakers and local rivals are pouring billions of dollars into meeting government targets to ramp up sales of electric models that for many might not be profitable for years.
Auto demand had been forecast to weaken after Beijing tapped the brakes on bank lending in late 2017 to cool a debt boom. But the slump is sharper than expected, prompting expectations regulators might try to prop up sales with tax cuts or other incentives.
Sales for the ten months through October fell 1 percent from a year earlier to 19.3 million vehicles, CAAM said. That was well below earlier forecasts of annual growth in mid-single digits.
Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, shrank 11.7 percent in October to 2.4 million, according to CAAM. For the year to date, they were off 0.1 percent at 22.9 million.