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China auto sales down 2.98% in August: industry group

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Car sales in China fell 2.98 per cent in August from a year ago, an industry group said Thursday, as concerns rise over slowing growth in the Chinese economy.

[BEIJING] Car sales in China fell 2.98 per cent in August from a year ago, an industry group said Thursday, as concerns rise over slowing growth in the Chinese economy.

A total of 1.66 million vehicles were sold in the country last month, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said in a statement.

It was the fifth straight month the figure had declined, according to CAAM's data.

Production was down 8.44 per cent in August from a year ago to 1.57 million units, falling for the fourth consecutive month, it said.

But month on month, sales rose 10.74 per cent in August while production was up 3.41 per cent, said the statement.

Fears about decelerating expansion in the world's second-largest economy, a key driver of global growth and a vital market, have rocked global stock exchanges in recent weeks.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday tried to soothe jittery investors, promising that the country "will not head for a hard landing", after the finance ministry this week said it will adopt "stronger" fiscal policies to support the economy.

"If there are signs the economy is sliding out of the proper range we have adequate capability to deal with the situation," he said.

China's growth slowed further this year, increasing 7.0 per cent in each of the first two quarters, after hitting a 24-year low of 7.3 per cent in 2014.

Huge explosives last month in the northern port of Tianjin, which killed at least 164 people and destroyed an estimated 22,000 imported cars awaiting Customs clearance, will also weigh on the auto market, previous Chinese media reports said.

Tianjin is China's most important entry point for imported cars, accounting for 40 per cent of the segment, the China Business News said Wednesday.

Car plate restrictions in some major cities to ease traffic gridlock and volatility on China's own stock exchanges have also hit demand.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index has plunged around 40 per cent since mid-June.

China's overall auto sales reached 23.49 million vehicles last year, jumping 6.9 per cent from 2013 but falling short of CAAM's growth target of 8.3 per cent.

CAAM in July lowered its estimate for this year's increase to "around three percent", from seven percent previously.

In the first eight months of the year, sales reached 15.02 million units, unchanged from the same period in 2014, the CAAM statement said.

AFP