China auto sales slow in 2014 but reach 19.7 million vehicles; sales in Dec rise 16 percent



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BEIJING — Growth in auto sales in China, the biggest market by number of vehicles sold, slowed last year but reached 19.7 million vehicles as domestic brands lost more market share to foreign competitors.

Sales of passenger vehicles for the full year rose 9.9 percent, down 5.8 percentage points from 2013, an industry group, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, reported Monday.

Global automakers are looking to China to drive sales despite declining growth rates as Beijing tries to steer the world's second-largest economy to more self-sustaining expansion and away from reliance on trade and investment.

Automakers are investing heavily in trying to appeal to Chinese tastes. Global brands have responded to slowing sales growth in major cities by stepping up efforts to sell in towns and the Chinese countryside.

Sales in December rose 16 percent over a year earlier to a monthly record of 2.06 million vehicles, according to CAAM.

Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, rose 6.9 percent to 23.5 million vehicles, the group said. Sales in December rose 12.9 percent to 2.4 million vehicles.

China's fledgling domestic auto brands were battered by foreign competition.

Full-year sales of sedans by Chinese manufacturers slumped 17.4 percent, according to CAAM. That was offset by a 50.4 percent increase in SUV sales but total sales by Chinese brands rose only 4.1 percent for the full year.

The total market share for Chinese brands declined by 2.1 percentage points to 41.2 percent.

Among foreign brands, sales by Japanese automakers rose 19.1 percent in December while those for German, U.S. and Korean brands were up 12.3, 13 and 9 percent, respectively.

— Volkswagen AG, which vies with General Motors Co. for the title of China's most popular auto brand, said sales by the company and its state-owned local manufacturing partners rose 12.4 percent in 2014 to 3.7 million vehicles.

— Sales by GM and its Chinese partners rose 12 percent to a record of 3.5 million vehicles. In December, sales rose 31.9 percent from the same month a year earlier to 357,375 vehicles.

— Nissan Motor Co., the most popular Japanese brand in China, said 2014 sales rose 0.5 percent over a year earlier to 1.2 million vehicles. December sales were off 9 percent at 121,900.

— Toyota Motor Co. sales rose 112.5 percent over 2013 to just over 1 million vehicles. December sales rose 115.3 percent over a year earlier to 125,000 vehicles.

— Ford Motor Co. said sales of Ford brand vehicles rose 19 percent over 2013 to 1.1 million vehicles. Sales rose 13 percent in December to a monthly record of 107,244.

— Germany's BMW AG said sales in China of its BMW and Mini brands rose 16.7 percent to 455,979 vehicles.

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