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China car sales slow as economy weakens

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Growth in car sales in China slowed significantly in March, yet still rose by 6.6 per cent compared with last year, according to a leading industry group.

AFP reports that, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), there were 2.17 million vehicles sold in China, the world’s biggest car market, in March.

Figures from February showed that sales grew by a huge 17.8 per cent compared to the same time last year. So this month’s figure represents a significant slowing of growth. Last year, car sales jumped by 13.9 per cent to 21.98 million units.

The slowing has been blamed on the weakening Chinese economy; however another factor is restrictions on car numbers which are being enforced by some cities.

Authorities from some cities are placing these restrictions in their efforts to cut traffic congestion and air pollution. For example, in the eastern city of Hangzhou, authorities announced last month that they will limit the number of car plates granted each year.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the CAAM remains basically confidant about the car market.

Dong Yang, the executive vice chairman and secretary general of the CAAM said, "I am not pessimistic."

Claiming that previous growth rates of between 30 and 40 per cent were “too rapid”, he added, "The current growth rate makes me feel comfortable."

Sales of foreign cars tend to fare better than locally built cars. This can be explained by a belief that they are of a higher quality and by brand recognition.

According to US auto maker Ford, its sales in China rose by 28 per cent to 103,815 vehicles in March. And fellow US car maker GM reported that sales went up by rose 7.8 per cent to 313,283 units in March.

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