China’s top minivan maker, Chongqing Changan Automobile, said on Friday that second quarter net profit jumped nearly 600% year on year to 439.25 million yuan ($US53.06 million), as rapid economic growth spurred sales, but cautioned of a possible second half slowdown, Reuters reported.

Chongqing Changan Automobile Co Ltd said first-half sales rose 64.1% to 196,211 vehicles, partly because people afraid of using public transport during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak brought forward plans to buy cars, Reuters said.

“The rise of SARS in the second quarter made people bring forward plans to buy cars, which may cause a slowdown in sales in the second half,” the company said in a statement on the Shenzhen stock exchange’s Web site, according to Reuters.

But it reportedly added: “We predict earnings in the first nine months of the year will grow more than 50% year on year.”

This would still give it stronger growth than market expectations, Reuters said, noting that analysts have forecast a 32% rise in annual net profit, to around 1.1 billion yuan, according to Reuters Research.

Reuters added that analysts have said private car sales rose during the SARS outbreak because people were wary of taking public transport, though sales of other types of vehicles suffered.

Reuters added that, in a development likely to interest foreign car makers who are ramping up production, Changan warned of downward pressure on prices, saying it cut the price of one of its main products by 13% in April.

“Many auto makers cut prices significantly in the first half, and with the launch of new products in the second half, price competition will get more severe every day,” Changan said, according to Reuters.