SHANGHAI (AFP) – China’s auto sales exceeded 23 million vehicles last year, an industry group said Monday, but annual growth halved from 2013 as a weaker economy took its toll on the world’s biggest car market.
Sales rose 6.9 per cent, or 1.51 million vehicles, to 23.49 million, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said.
That is short of an 8.3 per cent growth target given by CAAM in July, itself a cut from an earlier forecast of 10 per cent, Bloomberg News reported.
In 2013, sales surged 13.9 per cent to 21.98 million vehicles, helped by a recovery in Japanese brands that were earlier hurt by a political row between Beijing and Tokyo.
But China remained the world’s biggest auto market last year, well ahead of the United States. Industry consultant Autodata has estimated total US sales last year reached 16.5 million units, up 5.9 per cent from 2013.
China’s passenger car sales, which account for the bulk of the market, rose a stronger 9.9 per cent to 19.70 million vehicles in 2014, the CAAM said in a statement.
“The performance of the passenger car sector was within expectations and the slower overall growth is mainly due to a decline in sales of commercial vehicles,” John Zeng, general manager of LMC Automotive Consulting in Shanghai, told AFP.
For 2015, passenger car sales were likely to maintain “relatively high” growth, but an economic slowdown and stricter emissions regulations will hurt overall vehicle sales, he said.
He forecast overall auto sales growth of 7.2 per cent for this year, nearly unchanged from 2014.
At least seven cities have slapped limits on vehicle numbers to cut congestion and pollution, including the southern boomtown of Shenzhen, which just announced a new policy to issue only 100,000 licence plates annually.
China’s economic growth eased to 7.3 per cent in July-September, the worst quarter since the depths of the global crisis in early 2009. The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew an annual 7.7 per cent in 2013.
The government will announce 2014 growth figure next week. It has targeted an expansion of “around” 7.5 per cent for the year.