(Bloomberg) -- China’s car market had a difficult year last year and sales continued to fall in the first quarter of 2019, but they may recover in the second half, Japanese carmaker Nissan Motor Co. said.

Although Nissan’s sales grew, the overall industry had difficulties, Makoto Uchida, president of Nissan’s Chinese joint venture, said at the Shanghai Auto Show. With government help, Uchida thinks there’s “a lot of potential” for the market to recover in the second half.

Automobile sales in China shrank last year for the first time in more than 20 years, with a government deleveraging campaign, a slowdown in consumption and concerns about economy. Sales dropped more than 11 percent in the first quarter of this year from the same period in 2018, although that was an improvement from the September-December period.

While there have been some signs of a stabilization in the economy this year, closely watched car sales have yet to point toward a recovery in consumer confidence.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: James Mayger in Beijing at jmayger@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net, Reed Stevenson

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