China’s vehicle sales bottomed out last month, thanks to strong demand for trucks after the government stepped up its plan for infrastructure investment to boost growth this year. Vehicle sales - for both cars and trucks - grew to 2.07 million units in April, up 4.4 per cent from a year before, ending a 21-month streak of falling sales that started in 2018, according to China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). However, vehicle sales in the first four months of the year were still down 31 per cent from a year earlier, highlighting the depth of the economic damage caused by the coronavirus. Retail sales among only large car firms in China were unchanged in April compared to the same month last year, according to new data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released on Friday. Though overall sales of passenger cars were still 6 per cent below a year earlier at around 1.5 million units, they improved significantly from the fall of 80 per cent recorded in February, at the height of the coronavirus shock, according to the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA). An improvement in car sales, which account for about 10 per cent of total retail sales, is a sign of recovery in overall consumption in the world’s second largest economy, which was battered by the pandemic at the start of the year. According to CAAM, April’s surge in sales was mainly driven by commercial vehicles, which reached a record high of 534,000 units, up 31.6 per cent from a year earlier. Most of these vehicles were trucks, with 496,000 units sold last month, an increase of 34.2 per cent from the same period last year. As part of its stimulus plan to help the economy, Beijing has launched a new round of infrastructure investment, including spending on motorways, buildings and railways, as well as tech related “new infrastructure” projects like 5G base stations, data centres, and electric vehicle charging stations. Infrastructure investment dropped by 11. 8 per cent in the January-April period from a year earlier, improving from a fall of 19.7 per cent in the first three months of the year, according to the NBS. “The improved sales from January to April indicate a V-shape recovery,” said Deng Xue, chief auto analyst from Tianfeng Securities. The sales rebound was in part due to a series of measures from the government to boost consumption, including vouchers and discounts . China is the first major car market in the world to see recovery amid the pandemic, with almost all Chinese carmakers and dealers back at work by early May. Car factories in Europe partially resumed production late last month and are expected to resume in the United States this month. But analysts are still pessimistic about the prospects for global car sales this year. Moody’s now expects global vehicle sales to drop 20 per cent in 2020, downgrading their previous estimate of a 14 per cent decline, because of the gloomy outlook for the global economy. Rhe suspended production in overseas auto factories also increases the supply chain risk for some auto parts makers in the domestic automotive industry Shi Jianhua China is the only major auto market for which Moody’s did not revise down its 2020 forecast, continuing to project a 10 per cent drop because of recent encouraging sales. CAAM, however, still estimates that sales would fall between 15 per cent and 25 per cent, depending on how well the virus is contained outside China. “On the one hand, the domestic economic recovery needs some time, and export-oriented enterprises are still struggling. Demand for purchasing big-ticket items is not very high,” Shi Jianhua, deputy secretary of CAAM, said in a press conference this week. “On the other hand, the suspended production in overseas auto factories also increases the supply chain risk for some auto parts makers in the domestic automotive industry.” In April, car exports dropped 15.7 per cent from a year earlier to 70,000 units, according to CAAM. From January to April, auto exports fell by 12.6 per cent.