Sales of Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) vehicles in China closed out 2018 down nearly 37% compared to full-year 2017 sales. On a cheerier note, December sales were up 9.1% year over year last month.
In December, Ford sold a total of 57,216 vehicles in China, compared to 55,434 unit sales in November. For all of 2018, Ford sales totaled 752,243 units. The big drop was attributed to lagging sales at the company’s Changan Ford Automobile joint venture, where sales fell by almost half.
Ford’s other Chinese joint venture, Jiangling Motor, saw sales drop nearly 10% year over year in 2018. Sales of Ford brand imported vehicles dropped more than 14% to 16,131 units last year.
The trade war with the United States and a slumping Chinese equity market have made potential car buyers in the Middle Kingdom warier. Sales in the world’s biggest market fell 6% to 22.7 million units last year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM).
The decline in Chinese sales was the first in more than 20 years. While CAAM expects 2019 sales to be flat with 2018 totals, Goldman Sachs has projected a 7% year-over-year sales decline for this year, according to a report from Bloomberg.
On Jan. 1, the Chinese government initiated a three-month suspension of its additional 25% tariff on imported U.S. vehicles. The suspension reduces the tariff on U.S. imports to 15%, its level before the United States and China got into a trade war.
It’s arguable how much that will help Ford and other non-Chinese automakers. Sales in the country have declined for seven consecutive months, increasing every month until posting a decline of 19% in December.
Ford’s stock traded up about 2% in the early afternoon Friday, at $8.85 in a 52-week range of $7.41 to $13.48. The stock’s 12-month consensus price target is $9.97.