Top Chinese automaker SAIC Motor Corp sold 30 percent more vehicles in June compared with a year earlier, the second slowest monthly gain so far this year as demand in the world's largest auto market moderates after rapid expansion in 2009.
SAIC, which runs vehicle manufacturing ventures with General Motors GM.UL and Volkswagen, said in a statement on Tuesday it sold 289,203 vehicles in June, up from 222,517 a year earlier.
That compares with a more than 45 percent surge in each of the first three months.
It's not just SAIC that is slowing down, all the other auto markers have seen their growth rate tapering off. It's just impossible to match 2009's frenetic pace, said Huang Zherui, an analyst with global industry consultancy CSM Worldwide.
The market will slide further in the summer months but pick up again in the hot auto season of September and October.
China started 2009 with a nearly 8 percent fall in auto sales in January on economic worries. Demand picked up sharply since April, propelled by government incentives to boost consumption along with a near $600 billion economic stimulus plan.
SAIC president Chen Hong told a shareholders meeting last month the automaker's management team had expected early on that China's market this year would start strong but slow down gradually.
As such, the Shanghai-based automaker, along with its joint venture partners, have been speeding up expansion in smaller cities, traditionally dominated by cheap locally made brands.
From January to June, SAIC sold 1.78 million vehicles, up 44.9 percent, achieving nearly 60 percent of its annual target of 3 million units, in line with Chen's expectations.
A solid first half would give SAIC's management team more confidence to brace for challenges for the rest of the year, Chen said.
In the first six months, SAIC-GM-Wuling, a maker of China's best-selling mini van Sunshine, remained the biggest contributor to SAIC with a sales tally of 681,198 units in the first half, up 29.7 percent, equivalent to more than a third of SAIC's total sales. GM has been seeking to hike its 34 percent stake in the company.
Shanghai GM and Shanghai Volkswagen saw a 43.5 percent and 66.2 percent sales gain, respectively, during the period, while SAIC's own-brand cars nearly doubled to 40,197 units.
Smaller rival Dongfeng Motor Group, which makes cars in tie-ups with Honda Motor, Nissan Motor and PSA Peugeot-Citroen, sold 161,940 vehicles in June, up 38.6 percent year-on-year, company data showed.
(Editing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)