The low end of a Ford Motor Co. sales forecast puts automakers failing to achieve growth this year in China, the world’s largest auto market, for the first time in 17 years.

Demand has been slowing down in the world’s biggest auto market because of a weakening economy, predicted to grow at the slowest pace in more than two decades and because of the recent turmoil triggered by the Chinese stock market rout. According to Ford’s chief financial officer Bob Shanks, the company is predicting that overall industry sales would be somewhere between 23 and 24 million units in 2015, while last year the auto market recorded deliveries of 23,5 million vehicles. The low end of the estimate would put China on a negative path for the first time since at least 1998, if we take into account official sales figures. Before 1998 China didn’t show official sales data, only production numbers. “It’s clear we’ve seen a market slowdown,” commented Mark Fields, Ford’s CEO. “We’re still very bullish on China, but it’s going to go through its fluctuations.” The US automakers’ assessment of the Chinese market is the grimmest to date by a global competitor.

The state-supported China Association of Automobile Manufacturers earlier this month announced its 2015 sales prediction had been modified downwards to a rise of just three percent, the slowest growth rate over the past four years. Analysts warn the revision might not be the last one for the Chinese market, which has also been impacted by the new registration caps imposed by cities fighting off pollution and traffic congestion.

Via Bloomberg


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