BEIJING (Reuters) -- Auto sales in China were flat in the first eight months of the year and could drop this year for the first time since the market took off in the late 1990s.
Sales in the world's largest auto market fell 3 percent in August from a year earlier to 1.7 million vehicles, dented by China's slowest economic growth in a quarter of a century, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said today.
That's not as weak as July's 7.1 percent drop, but sales have now fallen for five straight months, the longest losing streak in at least five years. Shi Jianhua, Vice Secretary General of CAAM, told reporters that there was a chance of "negative sales growth" this year. Sales were flat for January-August compared to last year, with 136 fewer cars sold, the CAAM said.
Even in the wake of the global financial crisis, China's auto market grew 6.7 percent year-on-year in 2008.
In July, CAAM more than halved its 2015 growth forecast for auto sales to 3 percent from 7 percent at the beginning of the year, saying China's stock market slump was depressing demand for cars.
Shanghai-based LMC Automotive analyst Zhu Bin predicted growth through October-December will remain tough compared to a strong fourth quarter last year. He said car-sales growth, still up 2.6 percent year-to-date according to the CAAM, will remain positive this year, but he could not predict for overall vehicle sales. The market will come back on track at the end of the year or in January ahead of February's Chinese New Year holiday when "a lot of people will go back to the vehicle market," Zhu said.