China's Jan car sales fall 15.8 pct y/y, seven month of decline

SHANGHAI, Feb 18 (Reuters) - China’s automobile sales in January fell 15.8 percent from a year earlier, the country’s top auto industry association said on Monday, marking the seventh straight month of declining sales in the world’s largest auto market.

China’s Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said in an emailed statement to Reuters that sales dropped to 2.37 million vehicles last month. This follows a 13 percent drop in December and a 14 percent fall in November.

China has been grappling with slowing economic growth as well as the fallout of trade frictions with the United States, forces which contributed to its auto market contracting for the first time in more than two decades last year.

Beijing is now trying to persuade consumers to loosen their purse strings and has pledged to provide subsidies to boost rural sales of some vehicles and purchases of new energy vehicles.

Industry executives also say China’s car sales in January and February tend to be affected by the Lunar New Year holiday, as consumers hold off on their car purchasing decisions around the festival.

The holiday’s dates change annually but tend to occur in either month. It took place in the first week of February this year.

China’s sales of new energy vehicles, however, continued to buck the trend, totalling 95,700 in January, a year-on-year increase of 140 percent, CAAM said. (Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh Editing by Jacqueline Wong)