China’s vehicles sales fell for the ninth straight month in March, a further decline that could dampen the world’s second largest economy’s efforts to bolster consumption and counter slowing economic growth. Total vehicle sales fell to 2.52 million in March, 5.2 per cent down from a year earlier, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said on Friday. Meanwhile passenger vehicle sales, which includes sedan, minivans, sports utility and crossover utility vehicles but excludes commercial vehicles, fell to 2.02 million last month, 6.9 per cent down from March last year, according to China’s biggest automotive industry association. Passenger vehicle sales fell 13.7 per cent in the first quarter overall. Despite nine months of consecutive slumps, the CAAM said that the decline has been “significantly reduced”. The figures add to concerns about China’s slowing economy . In 2018, China saw its slowest economic growth in 28 years at 6.6 per cent. To help offset effects of the US-China trade war, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said during this year’s National People’s Congress that China would cut the value-added tax rate for manufacturing firms, an “unprecedented” move to spur consumer spending to stabilise the growth. However, this does not appear to be feeding into vehicle sales yet, while consumers are also being hit by a spike in inflation , data released on Thursday showed. Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that consumer price inflation rose 2.3 per cent year-on-year, a large increase on February’s figure, when consumer prices rose by 1.5 per cent. Sales of electric vehicles, by contrast, are growing exponentially. CAAM said that total new energy vehicle (NEV) sales rose 85.4 per cent in March to 126,000 units. For the first quarter, total NEV sales doubled, to 299,000 units, year-on-year. The Chinese government has been supporting the development of NEVs. It has exempted NEVs from ownership quotas in bigger cities, while subsidies have helped the world’s biggest account for more than half of the world’s NEV sales. Data from the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA), meanwhile, another Chinese platform for automotive industry research, shows that passenger vehicle sales reached 1.74 million units in March, down 12.1 per cent year-on-year. For the first quarter of 2019, sales declined by 10.5 per cent to 5.1 million units, the CPCA said. However, the downturn was not felt across the board. “The growth rate for luxury cars was up 7.5 per cent, but mainstream joint venture brand sales growth was 12.3 per cent down, and domestic brands were down 15.7 per cent. Japanese and German brands have seen a relatively strong performance, but pressure on domestic brands continues to grow,” the CPCA said in a statement on its website. “Markets in northern provinces and [nationwide] towns are still weak, which has recently affected the growth of the automotive market. Although some manufacturers are promoting sales in the countryside, the overall effect is still weak,” CPCA added.