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BEIJING: Automobile sales in China fell 9.6% in June from the same month a year earlier, the country's biggest auto industry association said on Wednesday, marking the 12th consecutive monthly decline in the world's largest vehicle market.

Sales fell to 2.06 million vehicles, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said.

That followed declines of 16.4% in May and 14.6% in April, as well as the first annual contraction last year since the 1990s amid slowing economic growth and a crippling trade war with the United States.

Sales in the first half of the year fell 12.4% from a year earlier to 12.3 million vehicles.

A slowing economy and China's trade war with the United States have been blamed for the year-long slide in auto sales, but more recently, much of the blame has been laid on the fast-tracking of new vehicle emission rules by 15 cities and provinces, which account for over 60% of car sales in China.

As provinces implemented the so-called "China 6" vehicle emission standards earlier than the central government's 2020 deadline, it stoked uncertainty among manufacturers and confusion among consumers, according to CAAM, analysts, dealers and consumers.

However, sales of new energy vehicles (NEVs) continued to grow, with an 80% uptick in June to 152,000 vehicles, bringing NEV sales in the first half to 617,000, an increase of almost 50% from a year earlier.

NEVs include plug-in hybrids, battery-only electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. China, blighted by air pollution, has been a keen supporter of NEVs, requiring automakers to meet production quotas.

Last year, NEV sales in the country jumped almost 62% even as the broader market shrank.

Copyright Reuters, 2019