China auto sales fall in January for eighth month

FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2018, file photo, a beam of sunlight is cast on vehicles on a city ring-road clogged with heavy traffic during the morning rush hour in Beijing. China’s auto sales fell for an eighth month in January, 2019, extending a painful decline for the biggest global market. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

BEIJING — China's auto sales fell for an eighth month in January, extending a painful decline for the biggest global market as demand cooled amid a slowing economy and tariffs standoff with the U.S.

Purchases of sedans, SUVs and minivans fell 15 percent from a year earlier to just over 2 million vehicles, according to an industry group, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Cooling growth and trade tensions with Washington are prompting jittery buyers to put off purchases.

The slump is a setback for global automakers that are looking to China to drive revenue and are spending heavily to meet Chinese government targets to develop electric vehicles.

2018 passenger vehicle sales suffered their first decline in nearly three decades. Purchases fell 4.1 percent from the previous year to 23.7 million.

The downturn has prompted suggestions Beijing will cut sales taxes or offer other incentives.

January's total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, declined 15.8 percent to 2.4 million, according to CAAM.

Sales by Chinese brands fell 22 percent to 832,000. Their market share contracted by 2.4 percentage points to 41.2 percent.

Purchases of electric and hybrid vehicles, which Beijing is promoting with subsidies, rose 138 percent over a year earlier to 96,000 units.

Sales of SUVs, usually a bright spot for the industry, contracted 19 percent to 878,900.

Volkswagen AG said sales fell 2.9 percent to 387,300.

BMW AG said sales of BMW and MINI brand vehicles rose 15.5 percent to 63,135.

Nissan Motor Co. said sales were off 0.8 percent at 133,934.

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