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Chinese luxury car sales start sluggish in '13

BEIJING -- China's luxury car market has gotten off to a slow start in 2013 after several years of strong growth, according to recently released sales statistics for the first two months.

Most of the dominant German brands saw slower growth in sales in January and February compared to previous years, while numbers even declined for some.

Audi, the top premium brand in China in terms of sales, sold nearly 30,300 units in February, a 3.5-percent year-on-year decline. This was partially due to fewer working days last month because of the Spring Festival holidays.

Last year, the lunar Chinese New Year was celebrated in January.

Even with the drop in February, Audi's combined sales in the first two months still grew 16 percent year-on-year. However, this is significantly slower relative to the 30-percent growth seen last year.

BMW, the second-largest premium carmaker in China, sold more than 53,800 cars in January and February in the first two months, a 9-percent increase over a year ago.

By comparison, the carmaker's sales surged by 40 percent last year.

Sales for another major premium carmaker, Mercedes-Benz, dropped 47 percent in February, during which the company only moved 10,134 vehicles.

Its tally for the first two months was more than 26,800 units, a 20-percent decline from a year earlier.

Meanwhile, China's overall passenger car sales in the first two months increased 20 percent over the same period last year to nearly 2.84 million units, according to statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

“The size of China's luxury car market reached 1.2 million units last year, and it is normal for the growth rate to slow down a bit on such a big base,” said Yale Zhang, director of industry consulting firm AutoForesight (Shanghai) Co. Ltd.

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This April 20, 2011 file photo shows a model standing next to the New Audi Q3 Quattro displayed at the Shanghai Auto Show. China's luxury car market has gotten off to a slow start in 2013 after several years of strong growth, according to recently released sales statistics for the first two months. (AFP)

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