Top Chinese automaker SAIC Motor Corp sold 24.6 percent more vehicles in July than a year earlier, its slowest gain any month this year as the world's largest auto market cools down after a roaring 2009.
SAIC, which runs vehicle manufacturing ventures with General Motors and Volkswagen, sold 278,947 vehicles in July, up from 223,957 in the same month last year, it said in a stock exchange filing on Saturday.
SAIC's 25 percent year-on-year sales increase was down from a 30 percent pace in June and a clip of more than 45 percent growth in the first quarter.
"The market has started to slow down in the second quarter. Big auto groups like SAIC are actually holding up relatively well as they have a broader portfolio," said Sheng Ye, associate research director for China at industry consultancy Ipsos.
SAIC president Chen Hong told a shareholders meeting recently that the automaker's management team had long expected China's market would have a strong start this year before gradually slowing down.
Warren Buffett-backed car and battery maker BYD Co cut its sales target by 25 percent to 600,000 autos after its sales in June fell 21 percent from May.
SAIC senior executives, so far, have kept their annual sales target of 3 million vehicles unchanged.
Industry observers expect the market to slide further in August but pick up again in autumn, the peak season for auto sales.
From January to June, SAIC sold 2.05 million vehicles, up 41.8 percent from the same period a year earlier.
The Shanghai-based automaker, along with its joint-venture partners, has been expanding more rapidly in smaller cities, trying to elbow into markets traditionally dominated by cheap locally made brands.