Shanghai — Global carmakers flock to the Shanghai Auto Show this week with the world’s largest vehicle market facing an unfamiliar sales slump just as China veers towards an ultra-competitive electric future. Fuelled by rising incomes and government sales incentives, China has been the golden goose upon which the global automotive industry has staked its future. But after years of strong growth, car sales fell in 2018 for the first time since the 1990s, hit by a slowing economy, US trade tension, and a Chinese crackdown on shady credit practices that has crimped car-financing channels. Sales dipped 2.8% in 2018 to 28.1-million units, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (Caam). The  pace has accelerated in recent months. “This is the first time since the takeoff of the Chinese market that there has been such a long and sharp decline in sales,” said Laurent Petizon, an auto analyst at Alix Partners. “We are starting to worry a little bit. It’s a new phenome...

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