China auto sales jump nearly 8% in January

SHANGHAI - China's auto sales rose nearly 8 per cent year-on-year in January ahead of national holidays, an industry group said Friday, picking up pace in a traditionally strong period for car purchases.

China is the world's largest car market, but its vehicle sales increased at their slowest rate in three years in 2015 as the country's economy encountered headwinds.

Auto makers sold 2.5 million vehicles in China last month, up 7.7 percent year-on-year, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said in a statement.

Vehicle sales traditionally peak in January, ahead of the Lunar New Year, the most important annual holiday in the country.

China slashed the purchase tax on passenger cars with small engines in October, which continues to boost the auto market.

China's gross domestic product increased at its the lowest rate since 1990 last year, when vehicle sales rose nearly five percent to 24.6 million.

But industry group CAAM last month forecast auto sales would rise 6 percent year-on-year in 2016, improving from last year, Bloomberg News reported.

Sales of major foreign brands were among those which increased in January. US auto giant General Motors sold more than 420,000 vehicles, up 7.3 percent year-on-year, according to the company.

US auto maker Ford said sales surged 36 percent to a record 130,832 last month, helped by purchases of SUVs (sport utility vehicles).