China’s embattled automobiles sector saw a ray of hope in May, as key carmakers wooed customers and improved sales by offering discounts. Geely Automobile Holdings reported strong sales last month. It said on the weekend that its sales jumped 20 per cent from a year ago to 108,822 units. Lynk, its premium car brand, saw sales jump 27 per cent to 12,950 units. JAC Motors, whose parent Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group set up a 50-50 new energy vehicle venture with Volkswagen last month , said its sales grew 7 per cent to 42,000 units in May. Moreover, preliminary figures by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers showed that total vehicle sales in the first five months of this year climbed 11.7 per cent to 2.14 million units, the sector’s first positive year-on-year growth since July 2018. But it remains to be seen whether the upwards trend can be sustained amid the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. Mainland Chinese carmakers and auto dealers were among the companies hardest hit by the outbreak in the first quarter of this year, amid lockdown measures and policies aimed at restricting business activities. Worst yet to come for China’s slumping car market, as coronavirus takes its toll “The lower prices turned out to be attractive to consumers, since many of them had plans to buy a car before the outbreak of the coronavirus,” said Tian Maowei, sales manager at Yiyou Auto Service in Shanghai. “But it seems to be only a rebound buoyed by the release of pent-up demand, rather than a turnaround.” Jefferies said in a recent research note that Geely would maintain its full-year sales target of 1.41 million units, which represents a 4 per cent increase over 2019. The company recorded the sales of 420,000 vehicles between January and May, down 25 per cent year on year. To meet its full-year target, the carmaker, which is controlled by Chinese billionaire Li Shufu, will have to sell about 1 million units in the remaining seven months of this year, which translates into a 25 per cent year-on-year rise. The company’s H shares gained 1.9 per cent to HK$11.98 on Monday morning in Hong Kong. Carmakers, who offered discounts to attract customers during the Labour Day holiday between May 1 and 5, after fears of Covid-19 eased, have also been boosted by supportive policies. China’s central government in March extended subsidies and tax breaks for new energy vehicle purchases by two years to engineer a sales recovery for the industry. Chinese tycoon Li Shufu to merge Geely and Volvo, create a global powerhouse Instead of scrapping the 25,000 yuan (US$3,528) per vehicle rebate and the 10 per cent purchase tax exemption this year, both will be extended until 2022. Local governments have also encouraged car assemblers and dealers to organise promotional campaigns to spur automobile sales. The 8.3 trillion yuan industry and its supply chain are a pillar of the mainland economy. It is the second-largest manufacturing industry by market size, employing 33.5 million workers or one in every 12 jobs in the country, according to the Sina news portal.