BEIJING (AP) — China's auto sales growth decelerated to 5.1 percent in January and February as demand for lower-priced domestic brand SUVs soared but sedan purchases contracted, an industry group reported Thursday.
Sales of sedans, SUVs and minivans in the biggest auto market by number of vehicles sold totaled 3.6 million in the two-month period, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Sales for the first two months are reported together to factor out the impact of the Lunar New Year holiday, a two-week slowdown that occurs at different times during that period each year.
SUV sales soared 54.8 percent in January and February from a year earlier while sedan sales fell 12.5 percent, according to the CAAM. Chinese brands accounted for 60 percent of the SUV market.
Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, rose 4.4 percent to 4.1 million in January and February.
Auto sales suffered an unexpectedly sharp contraction from June through August, rattling a global industry that is counting on China to drive revenue. Demand rebounded in September after Beijing cut sales taxes on vehicles with smaller engines.
China's auto market has been cooling since growth peaked at 45 percent in 2009.
Sales have been dented by measures imposed by Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities to curb smog and congestion by limiting new vehicle registrations.
In December, half the vehicles in Beijing were ordered off the road on alternate days after the Chinese capital's air pollution spiked to dangerous levels.
In January, auto sales rose 9.3 percent and total vehicle sales gained 7.1 percent, according to the CAAM. February auto sales contracted by 1.5 percent to 1.4 million while total vehicle sales declined 0.9 percent to 1.6 million.
Sales by China's lower-priced domestic brands grew at more than double the market's overall pace, rising 12.6 percent in the first two months of the year to 1.7 million vehicles.
Sales of Chinese-brand sedans fell 21.2 percent to 362,000 but SUV sales soared 64.1 percent to 763,000.
China's total auto sales last year were 21.1 million units.
—General Motors Co. said deliveries of GM brand vehicles by the company and its Chinese partners rose 0.5 percent in the January-February period to 666,713 vehicles. February sales declined 9.3 percent to 245,690 vehicles. SUV deliveries rose 115 percent.
—Ford Motor Co. sales rose 18 percent in January-February to 194,182 vehicles. February sales fell percent to 63,350.
—Nissan Motor Co.'s January-February sales rose 1 percent to 188,400 units. February sales fell 13 percent to 61,100.
—Toyota Motor Co.'s January-February sales rose 22 percent to 190,500. Sales in February rose 6.3 percent to 65,400.
—Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz said January-February sales rose 42.5 percent to 68,508 vehicles. February sales rose 29.3 percent to 25,837 vehicles.