Carmakers struggled to put on an optimistic face as growth forecasts for China's auto market continued to plummet. The latest figures came from China's National Bureau of Statistics, which cut its sales forecast for 2004 by more than half.
In 2003 growth in car sales was almost double that of a year earlier.
In a bid to boost sluggish sales, manufacturers have cut thousands of renminbi off the prices of their cars – although many, like Germany's Audi, preferred to label the move as a "sales promotion" rather than a price cut.
Audi's parent group, Volkswagen AG, said that in the face of fierce price cutting by other brands it was confident it would maintain its leading 30% market share, but would not buy that position at the expense of profit.
An official from China's statistics bureau blamed "adverse market conditions" for the slowdown in sales.
Government controls on car loans, soaring oil prices and consumers' anticipation of further price cuts have all been highlighted as causes for the downturn.
H-Share listed Brilliance, which has a joint venture production agreement with BMW, slashed targets for its Jinbei brand minibus by 16.5% to 71,000 units, its Zhonghua models by 40% to 15,000 units and BMW models by 44.5%, to 10,000.
Among those feeling the pinch the most are local car parts makers, with several pushed to the brink of bankruptcy by the big manufacturers demanding price cuts averaging 10% on components.
A survey by consultants KPMG found parts makers suffering from rising inventories and excess capacity as production slowed or even stopped.
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