By Naoki Ogawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent
BEIJING — China’s economy has quickly gotten on a recovery track that has helped revive new-car sales, leading automakers from around the world to increasingly depend on the Chinese market amid the unceasing global novel coronavirus pandemic.
At the 2020 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition that started Saturday, automakers are displaying an array of SUVs and electric vehicles and using their presentations to emphasize their intention to focus on the Chinese market.
“Let me show you this car that indicates the direction of future Honda electric vehicles,” said Katsushi Inoue, a managing officer of Honda Motor Co. and the chief officer of China operations.
He proceeded to unveil a prototype of the Honda SUV e:concept for the first time in the world at the auto show.
Honda’s research center in Guangzhou, China, led the development of the EV, positioning the model as a strategic vehicle that it aims to market globally from China.
Nissan Motor Co. President and Chief Executive Officer Makoto Uchida participated online in the company’s presentation, saying, “For Nissan, China will play a central role as a core market.”
Nissan announced plans to invest in seven new models in China by 2022.
The head of Volkswagen’s Chinese subsidiary also said China’s potential is even stronger now.
Behind these moves is the strong recovery of new-car sales in China.
According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, February saw a 79% year-on-year decline in new-car sales due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. But then the government policy to prop up sales has proved to be effective. Since May, sales have enjoyed double-digit growth over the same month the previous year, and the trend is in sharp contrast to Japan, the United States and Europe, where recovery has remained slow.
In August, Volkswagen’s sales in China accounted for about 45% of its total sales volume. China was also where Nissan recorded nearly 60% of its total sales in April and more than 30% in July.
In February and March, when the spread of the coronavirus was serious in China, the supply of auto parts from China slowed and affected automobile production in many countries.
In light of the recent strong sales, however, many automakers don’t view China as a risk and have stepped up their inclination to the Chinese market.