Industry Highlights 2018

Retail: Beating the Odds

The escalating trade war has sparked fears of a slowdown in Chinese consumer spending. Retail sales have, indeed, grown at a slower pace this year.

China retail sales 2018

Source: National Bureau of Statistics

But “Singles Day” – the annual online shopping frenzy that has become a barometer of Chinese consumerism – broke records. Sales growth slowed down but was still double-digit.

Source: Alibaba Group

More importantly, China stayed on track in its transformation into a consumption-driven economy. Consumption has accounted for a larger chunk of GDP growth this year.

China consumption, china consumer driven economy

Source: National Bureau of Statistics, Fiducia Analysis

Automotive: Stalling

Car sales in the world’s biggest automotive market were hit by several factors in 2018:

  • the end of small-engine vehicle tax cuts introduced in 2015
  • weaker consumer spending on big-ticket items amid economic uncertainty
  • credit curbs
  • a growing market for second-hand cars

If the trend seen in the January-October period continues, annual car sales could contract for the first time since the 1990’s.

China car sales 2018, China automotive sales 2018

Figure for 2018 represents Jan-Oct YOY growth Source: China Association of Automobile Manufacturers

But not all automotive segments are moving at the same speed. The new energy vehicles (NEVs) segment keeps accelerating.

China electric vehicle sales, China plugin car sales, China NEV sales

Source: EV-Volumes

Industrial Robots: On Hold

In 2017, automation at Chinese smartphone and automotive factories accelerated, boosting demand for industrial robots. In 2018, that momentum was lost. Many manufacturers paused their investments in automation because of trade war uncertainties. Some are waiting to see if tariffs reach a point where shifting their production away from China would make sense.

As a result, sales of industrial robots in China, the world’s biggest robot market slowed down sharply this year.

China industrial robot sales

Source: International Federation of Robotics

However, foreign robot makers – especially European and Japanese suppliers – still dominate the market. In 2017 they accounted for 75% of robot sales in China, including those produced locally, and their market share has not shifted significantly this year.