BEIJING – China’s auto sales fell slightly on a year-on-year basis in May, an industry group said Wednesday, as a slowing economy prompts manufacturers to cut prices and trim production in the world’s largest car market.

Auto sales in China slipped 0.4% on year to 1.90 million units last month, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said.

“It is worth noting that both production and sales were lower than the levels last year,” Chen Shihua, director of CAAM’s industry information department, told a news conference.

He added the twin falls in production and sales in May marked the first time this year that both had fallen year-on-year. Production slipped 0.58% to 1.96 million vehicles in May, according to CAAM.

For the first five months of the year, sales performed better, rising 2.11% year-on-year to 10.05 million units, it said. In the January-May period, passenger car sales alone gained 6.36% year-on-year to 8.58 million, but rose just 1.2% on year in May to 1.61 million, according to the group.

The passenger car market was supported by healthy sales of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs).

“Growth in the first five months, like in the first four months, was driven mainly by SUV and MPV sales,” Chen said, adding domestic brands had benefitted from the preference for larger vehicles.

General Motors sold 252,567 vehicles in China for May, which was down 4.0% year-on-year, according to the company.

“We continue to respond to shifting consumer preferences with more new products in the high-growth SUV, MPV and luxury segments,” GM China president Matt Tsien said in a statement issued last week.

“China’s vehicle market continues to grow at a moderate pace,” he said. “We expect about 6 to 8% annual growth.”

China’s overall auto sales reached 23.49 million vehicles last year, jumping 6.9% from 2013.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015