China Auto Sales: Toyota new car sales up 4% in 2011 image

Toyota Motor said on Thursday its sales in China rose 4 percent in 2011 — the slowest pace in at least seven years after natural disasters disrupted output and the removal of tax breaks dented demand.

Sales in Greater China, including Hong Kong and Macau, came to 895,000 cars last year, close to its target of 900,000 cars despite parts supply shortages in the wake of the devastating March earthquake in Japan and floods in Thailand, it said.

Bloomberg reports that China’s overall vehicle sales growth is forecast to slow to as low as 3 percent for 2011, from a record 32 percent increase in 2010 as inflation, higher interest rates and the end of two- year-long incentives for car purchases deterred consumers.

China passed the US as the largest car market two years ago. It yielded sales of nearly 16 million, and despite modest growth, industry leaders believe it is the key to larger profits among multinational manufacturers.

Polk expects the growth rate for 2012 to hit 16% — a far cry from the 32% seen in 2010 or the 59% bump in 2009 (both fueled by plenty of government subsidies), but nothing to sneer at.