New cars are seen at a parking lot in Shenyang, China. Photo: China Daily via AFP
New cars in a parking lot in Shenyang, China. Photo: China Daily / AFP

Some more grim Chinese economic data came out on Tuesday, shedding more light on how trade tensions are exacerbating troubling trends that were already underway.

Sales volume in the world’s largest auto market fell by 6% to 22.7 million units in 2018, the China Passenger Car Association said on Wednesday. That marks the first annual decline in more than two decades.

A number of trends have weighed on the sector globally, and in China the expiration of government subsidies to boost consumer spending in the area, coupled with the US tariff battle, have exacerbated the problems.

The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers noted the trade war as one factor weighing on auto sales in a forecast last month.

China auto analyst at UBS Investment Research, Paul Gong, said Tuesday that “”Total vehicle sales are expected to begin to pick up after the second quarter of this year,” according to a report from Shainghai Daily. Though Gong acknowledged that sales in 2018 were much weaker than the bank forecast.

Goldman Sachs expects the sales decline to steepen with a 7% drop this year, but may begin to pick up again in 2020, Bloomberg reported.