China’s car sales reportedly climbed 7.4% in August from a year ago, showing some signs of life as buyers scared off by a nationwide clampdown on auto loans trickled back into showrooms, official data showed.

Reuters said that that was still well off the pace of last year and earlier in 2004, indicating persistent nervousness over Beijing’s efforts to curb easy loans to prevent a rash of new bad loans from forming.

Car sales climbed 3.7% in July year on year, after rising 4.8% in June and 21% in May.

Sales of sedans crept up 0.2% to 170,300 in August from July, as the world’s No. 4 vehicle market continued to feel the impact of credit curbs, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said in a report seen by Reuters.

Analysts reportedly say car sales this year may grow just 10-20% compared with 2003, when sales almost doubled to about 2 million.

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A total of 1.506 million cars were sold in China from January to August, up 23.68% from a year earlier, the association said on its website.

Reuters noted that growth in sedan sales in China has decelerated since April when Beijing slapped curbs on credit, afraid that over-investment in pockets of the economy could generate more bad loans.