Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) reported Thursday that sales in China fell by 21% year over year in March. First-quarter sales for the company and its joint ventures in China also fell by 21%. Including sales of the company's Lincoln brand, sales fell 19% in the quarter.
A week earlier, General Motors Co. (GM) reported that its sales in China had dropped by 5.2% in the first quarter.
March sales were dampened by the timing of the Lunar New Year, which came in February this year, but the larger issue was a reduction in the government tax break for small cars that was reduced from 7.5% in 2016 to 5% beginning in January.
Automotive News reported that China's automaker's association reported a 7.1% overall rise in the first quarter of 2017, with both Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (HMC), among others, posting sales gains.
Ford CEO Mark Field noted that the company had expected the decline as sales were pulled forward into the fourth quarter of last year as car buyers hurried to take advantage of the bigger tax break.
Sales of the company's Lincoln brand more than doubled to nearly 12,000 units in the first quarter. Lincoln cars were not affected by the change in the purchase tax. The company plans to begin producing Lincoln cars in China in 2019. That is expected to boost Lincoln sales because domestically built cars are not subject to a tariff imposed on imports.
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The drop in sales follows an announcement from Ford last month that it would take a first-quarter charge of $295 million related to recalls.
Ford's stock closed down about 1.1% on Thursday at $11.11 in a 52-week range of $11.07 to $14.22. The stock's 12-month consensus price target is $13.18.