[SHANGHAI] China's auto sales edged down to 1.59 million vehicles in February, according to an industry group, as a week-long holiday for the Lunar New Year affected business.
Sales in the world's largest auto market slipped 0.2 per cent from the same month last year, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said Tuesday.
In the first two months of this year, auto sales jumped 4.3 per cent year-on-year to 3.91 million units, it said.
China's lunar new year holiday meant fewer work days in February, though the traditional festival is typically a peak period for retail sales.
The association said healthy demand for passenger vehicles, including SUVs and MPVs, helped support overall sales in February. Passenger car sales alone rose 6.4 per cent year-on-year to 1.40 million units last month, it said.
China's auto sales rose to 23.49 million vehicles last year, making a 6.9 per cent jump from 2013. But annual sales growth fell short of expectations as a weaker economy took its toll.
Established foreign brands have continued to shine in the crucial China market.
US automaker General Motors sold 261,072 vehicles in China during February, rising 1.3 per cent from a year ago and setting a new record for the month, according to the company.
Another US automaker, Ford, said its China sales reached 79,384 vehicles in February, up 9.0 per cent from the same month last year.
The Chinese auto market is key to foreign companies given its size. But slower economic growth and limits on vehicle numbers imposed by some cities to cut congestion and pollution has taken some of the heat out of sales, analysts say.