SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Brazilian vehicle sales fell 36 percent in January from December as a seasonally weak month followed a strong rush of year-end buying, according to data released by Brazil's auto industry on Thursday.
Vehicle makers in Brazil sold 107,400 cars, buses and trucks in January, which also represented a 4.4 percent decline from January 2003, the Association of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (Anfavea) said in a statement.
The industry group -- which includes major auto makers like Fiat, Volkswagen and General Motors -- said production rose 2.1 percent to 157,300 units.
Anfavea did not give an explanation for the sharp decline in sales, but industry experts had expected sales to tank in comparison to December, when they hit a record level as consumers took advantage of falling interest rates and a government-sponsored tax break.
Consumers also rushed to buy cars in December in expectation that auto prices would rise in January.
Auto sales fell 3.4 percent in 2003 but are forecast to rebound 7.8 percent in 2004 along side a general increase in economic activity and expectations that interest rates, and thus the cost of financing a purchase, will continue to fall.
Anfavea said auto industry exports fell 4.1 percent from December in January to $471.4 million, which nonetheless represents an 81.2 percent increase from January 2003.