[BEIJING] Ford Motor Co vehicle sales in China fell 11 per cent in April compared with the same month in 2015, the largest decline in comparable monthly sales in a year, as the world's largest auto market continues to struggle with the slowing economy.
The drop, disclosed in a statement on Thursday, was the biggest since Ford began reporting monthly retail rather than wholesale data in May last year. The decline extended Ford's uneven start to 2016 after a 5 per cent year-on-year rise in March and 9 per cent fall in February from a year earlier.
A company spokeswoman declined to comment on the sales figures or offer an immediate explanation for the decline. The US firm makes autos in China through joint ventures with Chongqing Changan Automobile and Jiangling Motors Corp (JMC).
China's auto sales growth ground down to a near-standstill last year before rebounding thanks to a tax cut on small engine vehicles that began in October and extends to the end of this year. It remains uncertain whether that momentum will continue as economic growth declines.
The country's statistics bureau reported last month that first-quarter gross domestic product grew at its slowest quarter-on-quarter pace since 2010.
Ford plans to idle a plant in Chongqing that produces Ecosport sport-utility vehicles and Focus and Mondeo sedans for maintenance for the remainder of the second quarter, according to its statement on Thursday. It didn't make any link between the closure and the April sales fall.
The downtime will not affect Ford's previously announced plan to produce 345,000 vehicles in the second quarter in the Asia-Pacific, it said.
For the first four months of the year, Ford China sold 391,294 vehicles, up 7 per cent from the same period a year earlier.
China's national automakers association said last month that the country's auto market grew 6 per cent in the first quarter, the same growth rate that it has predicted for the full year.