Now here’s something out of the blue, or the blues facing the auto industry thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. It looks like there’s some pent-up demand for new cars in China, where the novel coronavirus first appeared. Following drastic lockdown measures taken by the government there, the worst is over, and car sales are returning.

According to Reuters, General Motors’ sales in the world’s biggest auto market saw double-digit growth in April, year-on-year. The figures are from GM’s two local joint ventures.

SAIC Motor’s JV with GM, which manufactures Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac vehicles, said its domestic sales grew 13.6% y-o-y in April to 111,155 units. SGMW, another GM venture with SAIC and Guangxi Automobile Group that produces basic minivans but has recently made higher-end cars, said its sales jumped 13.5% to over 127,000 units last month.

This is a bounce back from a first quarter that saw GM – the second biggest foreign carmaker in China after Volkswagen – record 43.3% lower sales y-o-y. GM and SAIC’s sales tactics include hiring social media celebrities to promote its new models and offering free face masks to customers.

SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation) is China’s biggest carmaker, and besides JVs with GM and Volkswagen, makes its own vehicles under the Roewe, MG and Maxus brands. The group sold over six million cars last year, and y-o-y sales rose 0.5% in April.

Genuine green shoots or just pent-up demand creating a one-off spike? The carmakers, which are going through tough times now, will be hoping it’s the former.

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