Business / Auto Data

Hot equities market steals thunder from vehicle sales

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-06-11 07:09

The stockbroker is beating the car salesman in the battle for Chinese wallets.

With China's stock markets more than doubling in the past year, consumers such as Tom Zhang are deferring big-ticket purchases to chase the rally. The Beijing resident was deciding between a Buick and a Volkswagen Passat before concluding that his 300,000 yuan ($48,000) would be better off in equities. He was right, as his holdings soared to 800,000 yuan in value in little more than a year.

"I feel like I am good at this, that I can make more," Zhang, 26, said as he left a branch of Qilu Securities in Beijing. "Why would I kill the hen when there are more eggs on the way? I can always buy my car later."

Investors have opened almost as many stock accounts this year through May 22 as in the previous four years combined. The stampede into equities is the latest factor slowing auto demand in the world's largest market, where sales last month rose at the slowest pace in more than two years.

"The stock market is like a pump that sucked up all the money," Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of China's Passenger Car Association, said in a phone interview. "People are not buying cars, no matter how big the incentives. People want their money in the stock market."

The slowdown would have been more pronounced had automakers such as General Motors and Volkswagen not cut prices to encourage sales. Besides discounts, foreign automakers are offering incentives such as subsidized insurance, zero down payment, interest-free financing and higher trade-in prices, according to global research and brokerage firm Sanford C. Bernstein.

GM reported a 4 percent drop in May sales in China, its largest market, despite cutting prices on 40 Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac models in April.

By comparison, the Detroit-based automaker posted a bigger-than-estimated sales increase of 3 percent at home in the United States, helped by an improved job market and relatively cheap gasoline.

Sales in China fell 0.4 percent in May from a year earlier to 1.9 million vehicles, an industry association said on Wednesday.

Sales increased 2.1 percent in the first five months of this year compared with a year earlier, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said.

The association said in January that it expects combined sales for passenger and commercial vehicles to grow 7 percent to 25.1 million this year, but it told reporters in March that sales could grow slower than last year's 6.9 percent.

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