BYD reported an impressive increase in sales in the first quarter while extended Covid-19 lockdowns in eastern and northern Chinese regions hit other automakers hard, according to the latest official figures released on Monday.

Why it matters: The sales figures highlight China’s accelerated shift from petrol and diesel engines to electric vehicles (EVs) and clean energy. It also showed the continued impact of supply chain disruption on the auto industry, worsened by the Russia-Ukraine war and Chinese authorities’ lockdown measures in controlling the coronavirus outbreaks.

Details: BYD’s sales jumped 179.8% year-on-year, reaching 291,378 vehicles in the first quarter of 2022, while FAW and BAIC saw their sales slide by more than 20% compared to a year ago, figures from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) showed Monday.

  • Shenzhen-based BYD was an outlier for an industry hit by supply chain woes and lockdowns. BYD has been less affected by China’s pandemic control measures as Shenzhen quickly controlled an outbreak in March. The automaker also makes some of its own EV batteries and chips, protecting it from the wider supply chain shock. In addition, the EV giant is phasing out internal combustion engine vehicles faster than other automakers. Sales of new energy vehicles (NEVs), including EVs and plug-in hybrids, account for 98% of its total car sales. 
  • FAW’s sales plunged due to omicron outbreaks in Changchun, the capital city of northeastern Jilin province, where the manufacturer’s joint ventures with Volkswagen and Toyota were shut down for four days in March, resulting in lost output of 50,000 vehicles.
  • BAIC sales also fell off a cliff, partly because the firm cut production during the Beijing Winter Olympics early this year as the city government embraced strict anti-Covid measures. Great Wall Motor reported a 16.3% decline in quarterly sales, as the virus and lockdown orders hurt supply chains.
  • GAC is also catching up, reporting a 150% annual increase in sales to 45,000 EVs under its Aion brand, while Changan and Geely have done a modest job, reporting flat EV sales for the first quarter.

Context: Industry experts are concerned about the Chinese automotive sector slipping into lower gear this year as supply chains face mounting strains such as the rising cost of raw materials and frequent lockdowns.

  • The CAAM in January predicted China’s auto sales would grow 5% in 2022, compared with a 3.8% gain last year, but said early this month that the industry now faces new obstacles to achieving that goal, according to a report from Caixin (in Chinese).
  • Sales in the world’s biggest car market increased 0.2% to 6.5 million vehicles from a year earlier in the first three months of this year, while NEV sales more than doubled to around 1.2 million units, said the industry group.

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen