China's auto sales up sharply in February

Chinese firms accelerate in race toward driverless future

Vehicle sales in China, the world largest auto market, rose sharply in February from a year earlier, an industry group said Friday, but were capped by the Lunar New Year holiday.

Total vehicles sales surged 24.5 percent to 1.57 million units, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said on its website.

Analysts have cautioned about the distortion of statistics because of the Chinese holiday, which fell in February last year, giving a low base for a year-on-year comparison.

Sales are typically lower during the month of Chinese Lunar New Year as dealers shut down for part of the holiday and people take a long break. The holiday fell in January this year.

In February, sales of passenger vehicles -- which account for the bulk of sales in China -- also rose strongly, jumping 26.5 percent to 1.21 million units, according to the industry group.

Despite a strong showing in February, China's auto sales have slowed after the government rolled back sales incentives and some cities imposed tough restrictions on car numbers to ease chronic traffic congestion and pollution.

Nationwide sales rose just 2.5 percent to 18.51 million units in 2011, compared with an increase of more than 32 percent in 2010.

In January, China's auto sales slumped nearly 27 percent year on year to 1.39 million units, because the Chinese Lunar New Year fell in that month.

An official from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said the group forecast annual growth of eight to 10 percent in sales this year, according to Dow Jones Newswires.