China's sales of light vehicles and commercial trucks rose 2.5 percent to a record 18.5 million units last year, but auto executives may not be in the mood to celebrate.
The market's rate of growth slowed sharply after a banner year in 2010, when vehicle sales jumped 33 percent.
The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers released sales figures last week.
Sales of sedans, SUVs and multipurpose vehicles rose 5.1 percent to nearly 14.5 million units.
But demand for commercial vehicles dropped 7.0 percent to 4.0 million units.
The market for passenger vehicles, still No. 1 in the world, began to soften last year after China's government eliminated a scrappage incentive and raised the sales tax on small cars.
But analysts expect a modest rebound.
In 2012, sales of light vehicles and commercial trucks will reach 20 million units -- up more than 8 percent from last year -- as the nation's economy continues to grow, the Chinese trade association predicted.
Shi Jianhua, the group's vice secretary general, told journalists, passenger vehicle sales are expected to rise 9.6 percent to 15.9 million units, while commercial truck sales are expected to increase 2.5 percent to 4.1 million units.