Brazilian vehicle sales fell 23% in the first 15 days of April over the same period in March, when there was a rush by consumers to buy discounted cars, a motor industry group said.

According to Reuters, Rogelio Golfarb, the new president of Brazil’s National Association of Vehicle Manufacturers (Anfavea), said 53,000 cars, trucks and buses had been licensed for sale compared to 69,000 in the first 15 days of March.

“We had an increase in sales in March due to stocks that still had the IPI (industrial tax) reduced, causing the anticipation (of sales) that we’re feeling now,” Golfarb told the news agency.

Reuters noted that, hoping to bolster the beleaguered vehicle sector, the Brazilian government gave car makers a break on their IPI tax between August last year and February this year, which they passed onto consumers.

Golfarb reportedly said the vehicle sector was hoping to reach another agreement with the government so that it reduces the IPI tax again in May to make up for an increase in its Cofins tax in February.

But despite April’s tepid numbers, Golfarb said Anfavea was sticking to its forecast of between 7% and 8% growth in sales for 2004, Reuters added.

The news agency noted that vehicle sales dropped 3.4% last year, their lowest level since 1999 as the economy contracted 0.2% and suffered a short recession in the first half of the year due to a series of Central Bank interest rate hikes.