Mainland output of motor vehicles contracted by 4 per cent and sales dropped 5 per cent in the first 11 months of this year, according to the China Automotive Industry Development Research Institute. About 1.49 million cars were produced and 1.43 million were sold in the period, compared with 1.6 million for the whole of last year, making this the worst year since 1990, when sales fell 13 per cent. Production and sales of locally made passenger cars increased a little over last year, but the research institute said the introduction of car purchase loans had failed to improve market sentiment. Vehicles imported in the first nine months of the year fell 14.3 per cent to 16,700 cars valued at US$256 million. The value of car imports rose 45.5 per cent, suggesting that most imports were high-priced luxury cars. The mainland had imported vehicles and car parts valued at $1.24 billion by the end of the third quarter, a gain of 1.9 per cent year on year. Vehicle imports peaked in 1993 with 310,000 units, and have declined since then. Imported car prices are reported to have fallen dramatically this year despite efforts to crack down on the smuggling of cars and parts. China Daily reported that 100,000 cars were smuggled into the mainland last year, but gave no estimates for this year. The mainland earned $687 million by exporting vehicles, mostly trucks, and components in the first nine months.