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China’s auto sales jumped 16% in June, but slowdown looms

SHANGHAI (Bloomberg) — China’s passenger-vehicle sales rose 16 percent to 1.28 million units in June as automakers increased shipments ahead of scheduled shutdowns for the summer, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said today.

Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. led sales gains as Japanese carmakers rebounded from last year’s earthquake disruptions.

But sales may slow in months to come as China’s economy cools, and as municipalities set limits on vehicle registrations to ease traffic gridlock and air pollution.

June sales also may have been inflated by automakers that delivered more vehicles to dealerships to meet six-month sales targets, according to UBS AG.

Last month’s growth also may reflect increased shipments before traditional factory shutdowns in July and August for maintenance, CSC International Holdings said.

In the first six months, passenger-vehicle deliveries gained 7.1 percent to 7.61 million units, the association said.

Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, increased 9.9 percent to 1.58 million units in June.  SUV deliveries gained 52 percent, the best-performing segment.

Guangzhou curbs

Vehicle sales will slow in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province that borders Hong Kong, after the southern Chinese city imposed a strict quota on new vehicle registrations this month to control vehicle emissions and ease traffic congestion.

Guangzhou — which followed Beijing, Shanghai and Guiyang with sales curbs — may not be last. Morgan Stanley said in a July 2 report that 11 other cities, accounting for 15 percent of total industry sales in 2010, are candidates to implement limits on cars.

In the first five months, passenger-car sales increased 5.5 percent to 6.33 million units after growth of 6.1 percent a year earlier. Figures for April, May and June last year were hurt by disruptions from the Japan earthquake.

GM sales gains

General Motors, China’s largest foreign automaker, boosted vehicle sales 10 percent to 213,495 units, led by demand for its Buick sedans and Wuling microvans.

Demand from consumers in China’s interior provinces will help sales growth remain steady in the second half of the year, said GM China CEO Kevin Wale.

Ford Motor Co. raised total vehicle sales in China by 18 percent to 52,440 units. First-half deliveries gained 1 percent. BYD, the Chinese carmaker partly owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc., sold 12 percent fewer cars in the first five months, according to industry analyst LMC Automotive.

Honda increased deliveries 84 percent to 64,652 units, with sales and production a year earlier disrupted by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Toyota sold 70,500 units in June, 19 percent more than a year earlier.

Nissan Motor Co.’s China sales gained 10 percent to 119,200 units.

Among luxury carmakers, Audi AG boosted sales 20 percent last month to 33,309 units. BMW AG increased deliveries 13 percent to 23,930 on the mainland, which excludes Hong Kong. Mercedes-Benz sales in June climbed 2 percent to 17,250 units.