China auto sales growth weakens in June amid trade battle

FILE - In this April 26, 2018, file photo, Chinese visitors stand near a glass panel reflecting a Chinese auto brand Lifan X70 SUV on display at the China Auto Show in Beijing. China's auto sales growth decelerated in June, adding to economic worries for Beijing amid a worsening trade battle with Washington. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

BEIJING — China's auto sales decelerated in June, adding to economic pressure on Beijing amid a worsening trade battle with Washington, an industry group reported Wednesday.

Sales of SUVs, sedans and minivans rose 2.3 percent in the most populous auto market, down from May's 7.9 percent growth, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

That weakness adds to pressure on the economy as growth cools after the government tightened controls on bank lending to curb surging debt.

Beijing cut auto import duties from 25 percent to 15 percent, effective July 1. But it has imposed an additional 25 percent charge on vehicles imported from the United States in a worsening trade conflict with Washington.

SUV sales, usually one of the brightest spots for automakers, contracted by 0.5 percent from a year earlier to 738,000. Year-to-date sales were up 9.7 percent at just under 5 million.

Demand for sedans rebounded temporarily from a steady decline to rise 9.1 percent to 963,000. For the first half, sales were up 5.5 percent at 5.7 million.

Sales of pure-electric and gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles rose 42.9 percent to 84,000. Year-to-date sales were up 111.5 percent at 412,000.

On Tuesday, the U.S. electric car maker Tesla announced plans to build its first factory outside the United States in Shanghai.

Tesla would become the first wholly foreign-owned automaker in China following Beijing's commitment in April to end restrictions that required global producers to work through local partners.

Also this week, Germany's BMW AG said it will raise the sticker price of U.S.-made SUVs exported to China to reflected the higher import duty.

—General Motors. Co. reported no monthly sales but said the total for the quarter ending in June rose 0.7 percent over a year earlier to 858,344 vehicles.

—Ford Motor Co. said sales declined by 38 percent from a year earlier to 62,057. First-half sales were off 25 percent at 400,443.

—Nissan Motor Co. sales rose 10.4 percent over a year earlier to 131,038. Year-to-date sales were up 10.8 percent at 720,447.

—Toyota Motor Co. sales gained 11 percent to 117,800. First-half sales rose 10.9 percent at 680,000.

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