Sales of vehicles in China jumped 24.15% in the first half to 2.55 million units, an industry body reportedly said, referring to everything from cars to heavy trucks.

According to Reuters, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement on its website that car sales growth, however, decelerated in the first half, though it did not elaborate.

It reportedly blamed that drop-off on government measures to cool the economy, including restrictions on car financing, and high oil prices.

“But the auto industry maintained a fairly high pace of growth,” the association said, according to the news agency.

Reuters noted that the Beijing government’s efforts to curb credit growth to cool an economy that grew 9.6% in the year to the end of the second quarter have pounded the auto industry, drastically reducing the number of vehicles bought through financing.

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Only five to 10% of car buyers have made purchases via loans on average so far this year, analysts reportedly say – compared with more than 20% in 2003.

Sedan sales slipped 7.1% in June from May to 164,852 units, a senior industry source told Reuters last week, a third straight monthly decline and the slowest annual rise in years.

Sales rose just 2.2% from June 2003, the source reportedly said.

Reuters noted that multinationals such as General Motors and Volkswagen are planning to spend some $US13 billion tripling capacity to six million cars by the end of the decade, stoking fears of a future glut and margin-sapping price war, though some companies point out that growth in China is still better than in developed markets like North America and Europe.

Car sales in China almost doubled last year to some two million units, after breaking the million mark for only the first time in 2002, the report added.