Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Beijing — General Motors (GM) has fallen prey to a slowing Chinese economy amid a worsening trade war with the US.

The largest US carmaker on Monday posted a 15% drop in deliveries in China for the three months ended September 30, its first quarterly report since the trade dispute began escalating in July. The automaker’s sales in China fell 2.5% in the first nine months of this year, GM said in a statement.

Slower economic growth and a trade dispute with the US that has intensified in the past few months are threatening to put the brakes on a near three-decade growth in China’s vehicle sales. GM was mainly losing market share to Japanese automakers, especially in compact sedans and sport utility vehicles, said Yale Zhang, an analyst with Automotive Foresight in Shanghai.

Among GM nameplates, Buick and Baojun models posted the biggest sales drops, respectively falling 19% and 24% during the third quarter.

“This cannot be attributed to just one factor,” Bill Russo, CEO of Shanghai-based advisory firm Automobility, said in a WeChat message. “It’s a combination of a slowing economy, the availability of alternatives to new-car purchases to address mobility needs” as well as shifting consumer brand preferences as a reflection of weaker sentiment toward US brands due to the trade war, he said.

The declines come amid a recall of more than 3.3-million Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac vehicles in China due to system defects.

US brands’ market share narrowed to 10.7% in the first eight months of 2018, from 12.2% a year earlier, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.