Great Wall Motors showcases an Ora-branded electric vehicle at the 2020 Beijing auto show. [Photo by Li Fusheng/China Daily]

The analysis is the first of an ongoing series on the development of China’s automobile industry during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) period. It focuses on sales and market variation in that time.

China overtook the United States as the world’s largest vehicle market in 2009. In the 13th Five-year Plan (2016-20) period, China’s car market peaked in 2017 and has since contracted somewhat, but experts believe there is still much growth potential, given the country’s large population.

In the five years, double-digit growth was seen only once, in 2016. Then the sales inched 3.04 percent to the peak in 2017, when 28.9 million vehicles were sold. Deliveries dropped 2.76 percent in 2018, which marked the first annual fall since 1990. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers cited slowed economic growth and poor confidence in consumption as the major causes. The vehicle market shrank further in 2019 to 25.8 million vehicles, down 8.2 percent year-on-year.

The market was expected to rebound somewhat in 2020, but COVID-19 came out of the blue. Yet the effective crackdown on the virus and the resilience of the Chinese economy have seen the car market to begin recoup losses.

By the end of November, 22.47 million vehicles were sold, narrowing the gap with last year to a 2.9 percent fall. The CAAM expected the year’s fall to stand at 2 percent from 2019. It said the market will grow modestly in 2021 and reach 30 million in five years.