China Auto Sales Grow at Slowest Pace in Five Months

Passenger-vehicle sales in China rose at the slowest pace since March as the economy slows and the government steps up anti-monopoly probes into foreign carmakers in the world’s biggest auto market.

Wholesale deliveries of cars, multipurpose and sport utility vehicles climbed 8.5 percent to 1.47 million units in August, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said on its Website today. For the first eight months, sales rose 11 percent to 12.5 million.

Slowing car demand comes amid mounting evidence that the world’s second-largest economy is cooling, with China’s consumer inflation easing to a four-month low in August while factory-gate prices extended their decline to 30 months. Consumers are holding off buying cars in anticipation of price cuts after the government’s recent anti-monopoly probes.

General Motors Co., which counts China as its largest market, earlier this month reported that sales in August expanded at the fastest pace in six months on demand for its Wuling vehicles. The automaker’s deliveries in Asia’s biggest economy rose 14 percent to 280,178 last month while Toyota Motor Corp. increased sales by 8.9 percent to 78,500.

Since July, automakers including Tata Motors Ltd.’s Jaguar Land Rover, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG have announced price cuts following the government’s investigations into over-priced cars and spare parts, which began three years ago.

China’s three antitrust regulators held a rare joint press briefing in Beijing today to rebut claims that recent investigations unfairly targeted foreign businesses, escalating a government counteroffensive against mounting criticism from U.S. and European companies.

Local competition authorities in Shanghai and Hubei province said they fined Chrysler Group LLC and Volkswagen AG over antitrust practices 31.7 million yuan ($5 million) and 248.6 million yuan, respectively, Xinhua reported today. Eight Audi dealers in Hubei were also fined a combined 30 million yuan, Xinhua said.

— With assistance by Tian Ying, and Jie Ma

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