Despite the fact China’s frenetic sales growth is beginning to slow, sales and production in the year’s first half each topped 5 million units.

Through June, output increased 16.7% to nearly 5.2 million units, while sales rose 18.5% to 5.18 million, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers says. Passenger-vehicle deliveries in the first six months climbed 17.1% to 3.61 million.

But China’s Xinhua news agency says the growth rate was down 5.2 percentage points from the 22.26% increase in like-2007, due to rising gasoline prices and the planned restrictions on vehicle emissions in advance of the Beijing Olympics.

Analysts say most potential auto buyers have taken a wait-and-see attitude and predict the market will again heat up in late September.

Passenger-vehicle sales through June included 2.7 million cars, up 16.7%; 111,400 multipurpose vehicles, up 4.1%; and 224,300 SUVs, up 42%.

The Chinese auto industry built 3.65 million passenger vehicles in the year’s first half, a 16.0% increase from like-2007.

First-half commercial-vehicle production rose 18.5% to 1.55 million units, as CV sales jumped almost 22.0% to 1.57 million.

The CAAM forecasts full-year sales will climb 15.0% to 10 million units, as the country’s fast-growing economy creates a sound environment for the development of the automobile industry.

Ten of the country’s domestic auto makers accounted for 84% of total first-half sales of 4.35 million units: Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.; First Automobile Works Group; Dongfeng Motors Group Co. Ltd., Changan Automotive Co. Ltd., Beijing Automobile Works Co. Ltd., Guangzhou Automobile Industry Group Co. Ltd., Chery Automobile Co. Ltd., Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group Co., Ltd., Hafei Automobile Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and Brilliance Automotive Ltd.

June passenger-vehicle sales rose 15.2% to 588,300 units, including 433,600 cars, up 13.2% and 18,100 MPVs, a 4.5% increase. SUV sales soared 49.3% to 45,200 units, partly due to demand driven by disaster relief following a massive earthquake in Sichuan in May.

Meanwhile, the General Administration of Customs reports China’s auto imports slowed in the year’s first five months due to the introduction of a compulsory coding system for standardizing vehicle purchases.

Xinhua says the new import system took effective in April and denies refitted and stolen motor vehicles access to the Chinese market.

On a month-to-month basis, vehicle imports fell 7.5% in April to 37,000 units and another 18.0% in May to 31,000.

China imported 171,000 vehicles through May, a 59.0% gain over prior-year. The tally includes 71,000 vehicles from Japan and 57,000 from the European Union. Imports of off-road vehicles surged 91% to 87,000 units, while car imports rose 29.6% to 65,000.