Industry sales of passenger cars and minivans declined 0.4 percent from a year earlier to 880,027 last month, said the China Passenger Car Association in an e-mailed statement.
It was the first drop since at least September 2009, according to the group's Web site.
China raised the sales tax on small cars this year to 10 percent from 7.5 percent, phased out subsidies for vehicle trade-ins in rural areas, and increased retail gasoline and diesel prices on Feb. 21.
Lower taxes helped mass-market automakers last year as overall vehicle sales surged 32 percent to a record 18.1 million units.
"We believe market sentiment is changing due to rising gas prices, higher borrowing costs and overall tightening in the economy," Scott Laprise, a Beijing-based analyst at CLSA Asia
Laprise lowered his forecast for China's auto-sales growth this year to 9 percent from 13 percent, saying CLSA research shows February retail sales at more than 60 dealers in 35
Chinese cities fell from a year earlier.
The CPCA numbers are separate from those provided by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, which reports vehicle sales later this week. CAAM is the only automobile trade organization registered with the Chinese government.
LUXURY SALES outpace mass-market brands in Feb.
Luxury automakers continued to record big sales increases in February, but "automatic" sales increases for mass-market brands may be a thing of the past.
Mercedes-Benz sales in China soared 67 percent year-on-year in February.
Mercedes sold a record 12,200 units, compared with 7,300 units a year earlier.
Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz remain locked in a race to dominate the booming Chinese luxury market. BMW and Audi have not yet announced February sales.
China had 40 million cars on roads by end of 2010
Chinese motorists owned 40.3 million vehicles at the end of 2010, up 28.4 percent from a year earlier, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics.
According to the bureau, individuals owned 34.4 million vehicles, up more than 32 percent year-on-year.
Among Chinese cities, Beijing has the highest car ownership rate. At the end of 2010, the city had 2.8 million privately owned cars.
Beijing, which reportedly suffers the worst gridlock of any major city worldwide, slapped tough limits on residents' car purchases this year. Other cities reportedly are considering similar restrictions.
Source: Auto News China
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