China 2016 auto sales surge at fastest in three years

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Auto sales in China, the world’s biggest car market, surged at their fastest in three years in 2016, an industry group showed Thursday, jumping nearly 14 percent after authorities slashed a purchase tax.

The world’s second-largest economy is crucial to global auto manufacturers, but the market took a hit from slowing economic growth in 2015.

However a total of 28.03 million cars were sold last year, up 13.7 percent annually, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said.

“Both production and sales achieved historic new highs,” the group said in a statement.

It added that China sales “ranked first globally for the eighth straight year.”

Sales had risen 4.7 percent in 2015 and 6.9 percent the previous year.

The industry group said 2016 sales were “boosted” by China’s halving of a purchase tax on small-engine passenger cars.

Originally set at 10 percent, the tax was cut beginning in October 2015 in a bid to stimulate the market.

The manufacturers’ alliance said sales of such cars grew 21.4 percent in 2016, accounting for over 70 percent of all passenger-car sales.

However, the finance ministry announced last month the tax would be increased to 7.5 percent beginning January 1 of this year and restored to the original rate of 10 percent next year.

US auto giant General Motors delivered a record 3.87 million vehicles in China in 2016, up seven percent from 2015, the company said last week.

Volkswagen China said this week it had delivered 3.98 million vehicles to customers in mainland China and Hong Kong, making it the country’s top foreign auto maker by sales, despite the global scandal over its attempts to hide emissions levels.

US carmaker Ford also set a company record for China sales in 2016 with 1.27 million vehicles, up 14 percent on the previous year, the company has said.