China auto sales rise 8.8% in first 2 months despite higher sales
China's auto sales climbed 8.8 percent year on year in the first two months of 2017, bucking expectations that consumer demand would suffer after Beijing raised its sales tax on small cars.
Combined figures for the first two months of the year are viewed as a more reliable market yardstick because of the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday, which varies between January and February each year.
"In January and February, Spring Festival and other factors mean the data should not be overinterpreted," said Xu Haidong, the association's assistant secretary general. "In March and April, the numbers will more clearly show relevant [market] conditions."
Sales growth is expected to slow this year after China cut its economic growth target and as the tax on vehicles with engines of 1.6 liters or smaller was raised to 7.5 percent on Jan. 1, up from 5 percent last year. The tax will rise to the normal 10 percent rate in 2018.
In January, the manufacturers association predicted industry sales would rise 5 percent this year, compared with 14 percent in 2016.
Auto executives had warned that first-quarter sales growth would be weak after buyers rushed to buy cars last year before the sales tax increased.
Sales of electric cars jumped 30 percent year on year in February, following a 74 percent decline in January when subsidies were reduced 20 percent.
Approvals of subsidies, for which automakers must reapply this year, have also slowed amid stricter oversight.