PHEVs get the same tax exemption as BEVs, and the extension of the tax break will attract more automakers to the market, Fitch said.

(Image credit: CnEVPost)

China last week extended tax incentives for new energy vehicles (NEVs) for four years, a move that in the view of international credit rating agency Fitch Ratings could help renew electrification momentum.

China's extension of tax breaks for electric vehicle (EV) purchases should facilitate steady growth in the sector, while the continued coverage of subsidies for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) reinforces Fitch's view that such vehicles will be a key catalyst for China's transition to EVs, analyst Jing Yang's team said in a June 28 research note.

On June 21, China's Ministry of Finance announced that NEVs with a purchase date between January 1, 2024, and December 31, 2025, will continue to be exempt from vehicle purchase tax, but the exemption will not exceed RMB 30,000 yuan ($4,340) per vehicle.

For NEVs with a purchase date between January 1, 2026 and December 31, 2027, the vehicle purchase tax will be levied at half the normal rate, with a tax reduction of no more than RMB 15,000 per vehicle.

"We believe the renewal of tax waivers for consumers purchasing EVs until end-2025 aligns with market expectations. Purchase taxes will be halved in 2026-2027 and then return to normal levels," Fitch said.

Sales of PHEVs, including extended-range electric vehicles (EREVs), will continue to grow rapidly under the updated policy, with these vehicles receiving the same tax exemption as battery electric vehicles (BEVs), the note said.

PHEVs are a close substitutes to traditional internal combustion engine vehicles because drivers do not suffer from mileage anxiety or charging inconvenience, and are therefore widely seen as a transitional product before the market shifts completely to BEVs, Fitch said.

PHEVs' share of China's EV market soars from 17 percent in 2021 to 28 percent in January-May 2023, Fitch said.

Competition in the PHEVs segment has intensified, and the extension of tax breaks will attract more automakers to the market, according to the note.

Plug-in hybrids are an easier sub-segment for traditional automakers to compete in than BEVs, with Great Wall Motor, and Changan Automobile all launching competitively priced plug-in hybrids this year, Fitch said.

Joint venture brands, despite having a firmer foothold in the market, have been slowed due to their global parent companies' focus on BEVs and less attractive pricing, the note said.

Tax breaks for high-end EVs will remain in place, which could ease local automakers' concerns about upgrading to premium EV brands, did not expect the waivers to be renewed, and should incentivize traditional luxury carmakers to transition faster toward EVs, Fitch said.

The latest program exempts consumers who buy battery swap-enabled EVs from the battery tax for the first time, Fitch noted, saying it expects this to benefit EV brands selling high-end BEVs with battery swap capability and to encourage automakers to adopt the model.

Overall, Fitch believes the subsidy extension will have little impact on EV sales in China in 2023 and continues to forecast EV deliveries to grow by more than 30 percent during the year and EV market penetration to reach 35 percent.

However, the extension could reduce front-loaded purchases in the fourth quarter of 2023, as consumers will no longer be eager to take advantage of expiring tax breaks, Fitch said.

($1 = RMB 7.2506)

China's Ministry of Finance explains in detail how consumers will enjoy NEV tax breaks in 2024-2027