Annualised US car sales slipped below 10m last month – and were less than China’s for the first time – in spite of steep discounts offered by carmakers and government efforts to ease lending.

General Motors’ monthly sales of cars and light trucks fell by 49 per cent last month, Chrysler’s by 55 per cent and Ford Motor’s by 40 per cent, including vehicles made by Volvo, its Swedish premium brand.

“This is the first time in history that China has surpassed the US,” said Michael DiGiovanni, GM’s head of global sales and industry analysis.

GM estimated the overall annualised selling rate for cars at 9.8m in the US in January, compared with 10.3m in December, and less than China’s estimated selling rate of 10.7m last month.

The slide in car sales hit all major manufacturers, but will intensify the pressure on Detroit’s carmakers in particular, which are scrambling to avoid bankruptcy. GM and Chrysler are working on restructuring plans due by February 17, as conditions of their $17.4bn emergency government loans.

Autodata, a market research firm, put total estimated annual industry car sales at 9.6m, their lowest level since 1982.

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China January Car Sales Surpass US For The First Time Ever

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