SHANGHAI -- China's passenger car production and sales growth slowed dramatically in January compared with the same month a year ago.
In January, auto manufacturers in China produced 142,300 passenger cars, a 5.88 percent increase over the same month a year ago, according to China Association of Automobile Manufacturers figures. January sales rose 6.79 percent to 155,500 units.
Total vehicle production for January was 299,700 units, down 9.68 percent compared with the same month in 2003. Total vehicle sales were 304,100 units, down 7.34 percent.
The rate of growth for passenger car production and sales was much lower than in January of 2003, when production surged 127 percent and sales rocketed 184 percent, according to the association.
Price reductions and new models partly drove those huge increases, said Angela Gu, an analyst for Automotive Resources Asia, a consultancy with offices in Beijing and Bangkok, Thailand.
The timing of the Chinese New Year is another important factor. This year the holiday fell in late January; last year, it fell in February.
The country shut down for a week from Jan. 22-28, so not only were there no cars being made, banks weren't making car loans.
China's National Statistical Bureau also attributed the slowdown to automakers trying to liquidate leftover inventory from 2003 and to the anticipation that several major automakers would release new models in February or March.
Chinese consumers tend to delay buying if they know new models are coming soon.