On May 9, the Chinese regulatory body under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced that every car produced, imported, or sold since July 1 must comply with the 6b emission standard.
Previously rumors appeared that MIIT would postpone the deadline until December to help overstocked ICE dealers. Many sellers panicked over their inventory and joined the price war offering significant cuts for the ICE vehicles in stock because, after July 1, they would become unsellable. 6b (GB18352.6-2016) is a strict Chinese emission norm for ICE vehicles, an analogy to EURO7 in the EU.
The MIIT document says that light-duty vehicles which undergo pollution monitoring tests (the RDE test) with the result ‘monitoring only’ will be given a transition period of six months and can be sold until December 31. So now we see the 6b will not be postponed, but there will be exceptions for vehicles that comply with RDE (Real Driving Emission) testing.
The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) has released a statement saying that “this policy measure is based on the principle of assisting enterprises in distress by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, combined with the current market situation. After the full demonstration, it provides substantial relief to the industry once again, following the expansion principle for optimizing light vehicle models at the end of 2022.”
According to the report from CAAM, as of January 2023, more than 1.89 million vehicles were in stock that did not meet the RDE test requirements.
“Starting July 1st, the production of the National 6b emission standard will no longer be possible. A six-month transition period will be implemented for RDE test models, resulting in a significant increase in production from May to June. The market is expected to stabilize, and monthly output will be better promoted, with June being the most favorable. Therefore, we believe that implementing this policy is a response to the industry’s appeal, and it is a highly beneficial policy for the country, the people, and the industry. Cui Dongshu, the Dealers Association secretary-general, commented.
In December 2016, China unveiled the Phase 6 light vehicle emission limits and measurement methods, also known as the China 6 standard. This new standard incorporates the best practices from European and US regulations. It is being introduced in two phases, with the 6a standard already enforced since July 1, 2020, and the 6b standard scheduled to be effective from July 1, 2023.
The emission standard 6b was one of the ingredients of the perfect storm in the Chinese auto market, which is driving the vehicle prices down, together with Tesla price-cuts from January which many EV makers followed. Some ICE cars from BMW or Volkswagen got discounted up to 90,000 yuan (13,000 USD).
After studying some additional documents from MIIT, I think, despite the announcement of the government body sounding strict, it is basically what car dealers were lobbying for. It is a postponement of the GB18352.6-2016 standard without postponing it, as many of the ICE cars in stock should have no problem with RDE. So everybody will be happy, and nobody will lose face.
Edit May 9, 8:05 pm GM+8: Added the editor’s comment, CAAM statement, and Cui Dongshu’s comment.