By Jiahui Huang

China vehicle sales rose in March, bouncing back from a weaker showing the prior month and registering a gradual pace of growth for the first quarter of the year, signaling that demand may be turning a corner.

Retail sales of passenger cars in China rose 6.0% from a year earlier to 1.687 million units, the China Passenger Car Association said Tuesday. Sales surged 53% compared with last month, as consumer demand recovered after the Lunar New Year in February, the association said.

BYD kept its title as the top seller of electric vehicles in March, selling 301,631 units, with Tesla in second place. The Chinese EV giant overtook the U.S. company as the world's top seller of EVs in the final quarter of 2023.

Tuesday's data showed that Tesla delivered 89,064 cars made at its Shanghai plant in March, recovering from February when it posted its lowest monthly figure since late 2022.

Country-wide, retail sales of new-energy cars, which include EVs and plug-in hybrids, rose 29.5% to 709,000 units.

Chinese exports of passenger cars hit a record high, jumping 39% to 406,000 units in March. Exports of new-energy vehicles rose 71% during the month, with Tesla exporting 26,666 cars made in China.

Consumers have been holding back from buying cars as they look at how the price war among automakers unfolds, and await more details on the government's trade-in program for big-ticket items and how it applies to cars, the CPCA said.

Consumer sentiment toward cars is set to brighten moving forward, the association said.

It sees drivers in the recent launch of smartphone maker Xiaomi's first EV, and the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition set for later this month. Expected launches from more automakers in April and Beijing's measures to boost consumption could also help buoy demand, it said.

Write to Jiahui Huang at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

04-09-24 0514ET