BEIJING, April 27 (Xinhua) -- A spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Thursday that automobile sales may see slower growth this year in spite of better-than expected figures for the first quarter.
Auto sales rose 7 percent in the first three months, higher than the 5 percent estimate for full year growth, according to data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
MOC spokesman Sun Jiwen said at a press conference that the main reason behind the strong growth was higher demand, especially demand for commercial vehicles on the back of commodity transportation needs and more infrastructure projects under construction.
In the first quarter, commercial vehicle sales surged 22.9 percent.
However, sales of passenger vehicles, making up some 85 percent of the total sales, rose just 4.6 percent year-on-year during the period, lower than market expectations.
Sun forecast that annual auto sales would remain steady this year, but growth would be slower than 2016 due to a high comparison base and reduced policy incentives for buying low-emission cars.
Earlier this month, the MOC unveiled measures to allow companies with or without authorization from brand owners to sell vehicles from July 1, 2017.
"The move will promote market competition, raise logistics efficiency and optimize market supply," Sun said.
The preceding measures implemented since 2005 require that all car dealers secure authorization from brand owners. The old system helped safeguard market order, but also gave rise to monopolistic practices, dragged on competition and made auto parts expensive.
China had remained the world's largest automobile manufacturer and market for eight consecutive years by 2016, with auto sales up 13.7 percent to more than 28 million units last year.