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Auto imports tumble amid global crisis
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China's auto imports achieved hefty increases over the past five years, but posted a 31.4-percent decrease in the first half of this year amid weak demand caused by the global economic crisis, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said Wednesday.

Industry analysts said it was inevitable that auto imports would be on a downward trend this year.

However, they said the decrease would ease to less than 10 percent as forecast at the beginning of this year thanks to the government's stimulus measures and a recovering economy.

Reports from CAAM showed that sales of imported vehicles totaled 145,900 units during January to June. The value of imports fell 27 percent to US$11.9 billion.

There was a 37-percent decline in auto exports in the first half.

Ding Hongxiang, chairman and general manager of China Automobile Trading Co, said sales could lift slightly as dealers reduced inventories and a better-than-expected economy boosted market confidence.

"But on concerns of the fading impact of stimulus measures and an uncertain economic outlook, auto imports will fall for the whole year to about 370,000 units," Ding said.

Last year, auto imports gained 40 percent to 410,100 units.

All major segments for imported vehicles suffered less orders in the first half. Half-year sales of imported sport-utility vehicles, once the driving force, declined 27 percent. Car imports slid 33 percent, and demand for minivans tumbled 40 percent.

Other analysts believe that the drop is also a result of growing domestic production as car makers tempt buyers with lower-priced vehicles.

China's vehicle imports grow at an average 28.4 percent annually during 2002 to 2008, beating the 21.1 percent for the overall market.

(Shanghai Daily August 6, 2009)

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