BEIJING — Auto sales in China, the world's top car market, rose in the first two months of the year, an industry group said Monday, indicating strong demand as the country's economy gradually recovers.
A total of 3.39 million vehicles were sold in the country in January and February, rising 14.7% from the same period last year, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said in a statement.
"The auto industry had a good start this year and the overall market demand for cars has remained strong," said the statement.
Giving the figure for the two months reduces seasonal distortions due to the Lunar New Year holiday, which fell in February this year but January in 2012.
Total auto sales declined by around 14% year-on-year to 1.35 million units in February, the CAAM said, blaming the week-long holiday for the drop.
That came after sales surged 46.4% year-on-year in January, setting a record for any month, thanks to a consumer tradition of spending annual bonuses before the holiday and a low comparative base in the first month of 2012.
Sales of passenger vehicles declined by 8.3% year-on-year last month to 1.11 million units, the association said, but over the first two months of the year they jumped 19.5% year-on-year to 2.84 million units.
China's annual auto sales rose only 4.3% year-on-year to 19.31 million units in 2012, hit by limits on numbers imposed by some cities to ease traffic congestion and try to tackle pollution.
A territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo that triggered anti-Japanese protests hurt sales of cars made in Japan, but other foreign brands have fared better due to customers' perceptions of higher quality.
The CAAM said sales of Japanese passenger cars fell by 17.1% in the January-February period from a year ago, while those of other foreign brands all rose, with German, South Korean and French labels surging over 30 percent.
Growth in the world's second-largest economy slowed to a 13-year low of 7.8% in 2012, but a pick-up in the final three months raised hopes for a rebound this year.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013