[BEIJING] China's auto sales rose 10 per cent last month, led by demand for sport utility vehicles and minivans as consumers continued to favor more spacious rides over conventional sedans.
Retail deliveries of passenger vehicles climbed to 2.07 million units in January, the China Passenger Car Association said on its website today. SUV sales surged 62 per cent, while minivans advanced 22 per cent, outpacing demand for sedans, which was little changed, the data show.
Vehicle sales in China are forecast to expand 7 per cent this year, half the pace achieved in 2013, as the economy cools in the world's largest car market. Total deliveries may exceed 25.1 million vehicles, from 23.5 million last year, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said last month.
China's gross domestic product is forecast by economists to expand 7 per cent this year, slowing from 7.4 per cent in 2014, as President Xi Jinping seeks a "new normal" after three decades of breakneck growth.
Local authorities in China have stepped up restrictions to limit deliveries of vehicles as a growing number of cities join the fight to control smog and traffic congestion across the world's most populous country. Shenzhen's decision to cap the number of new vehicle registrations a year has spurred concern that several smaller cities may follow suit.
"Nanjing, Suzhou and Wuhan were cited as examples in our conversations where similar restrictions had been rumored," Max Warburton, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd, wrote in a Feb 6 note to clients. Shenzhen's decision "was said to have helped drive volumes, apparently pulling forward demand." General Motors Co said its China sales fell 2.4 per cent last month, while Toyota Motor Corp boosted deliveries in the country by 11 per cent.