SHANGHAI (AP) -- China's auto sales climbed 6 percent in the first four months of the year, slowing sharply from the double-digit growth seen in past years, an industry group reported Tuesday.
Automakers sold 6.53 million new vehicles in January-April, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing figures from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Automakers produced 6.4 million vehicles, up 5 percent from the same period the year before, it said.
Surging sales following the global financial crisis made China the world's biggest market for new vehicles as of 2009, but growth has tapered off amid rising gas prices, tighter traffic restrictions and an end to government incentives.
Sales jumped 32 percent last year to over 18 million vehicles, but are forecast to rise only about 10 percent this year, perhaps topping 20 million vehicles.
In the first quarter of the year sales rose just 8 percent, suggesting that global automakers looking for a shortcut to faster growth will find the going a bit harder this year.
So far, only a handful of individual automakers have reported April sales.
Japanese manufacturers, stymied by supply chain disruptions following the massive earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan in March, took the biggest hit in April, with Toyota Motor Corp. reporting that sales fell 23 percent from a year earlier, to 48,700 vehicles.
Toyota's sales in China rose 6 percent in January-April, to 256,000 vehicles.
New vehicle sales by Honda Motor Co. in China slipped 22 percent from a year earlier, to 43,000 vehicles.
General Motors Co. and its joint ventures sold 203,367 vehicles in China in April, down nearly 5 percent from a year earlier.