China imported a total of 1.09 million vehicles in 2012, the Beijing News reported today. The figure, which originates from the General Administration of Customs and was compiled by the China Automobile Trading, represents year-on-year growth of just 8.8 percent. Furthermore, automobile imports actually fell a full 25 percent in the fourth quarter of the year.

CATC attributes the decrease in imports to market demand falling short of unrealistic anticipations. As a result, dealership inventories reached new highs while their profits fell sharply. In response, dealerships introduced even more sales promotions to counter falling sales. However, the CATC adds that dealerships also reduced the number of vehicles they imported in the fourth quarter, keeping inventory levels somewhat in check.

SUVs remained the most popular imported vehicle type, constituting 53.2 percent of the import car market. Sedans made up 42.3 percent of all vehicles imported. Sales growth was high among small displacement engines, with vehicles powered by engines 3.0 L or smaller making up 84.7 percent of all imports.

The CATC expects growth in the import automobile market to further slow this year. Multinational enterprises will pay particular focus to decreasing inventory levels of their Chinese dealerships by limiting imports.