Last year was a record breaker for China car sales, comparing to US car sales. Monthly sales, which first cracked the 2 million mark as recently as 2013, surged above 3 million in December. Still, pessimists were focused on what would happen in January, when the rollback of a tax discount for small-engined cars was expected to hit demand. Sure enough, when January sales figures came out, they were up just 0.8 percent from a year earlier, compared with an average 14 percent pace of growth through 2016. Optimists' hopes were undimmed: The timing of Lunar New Year made January an unusually short sales month, and their confidence looked to have been validated when February data showed a respectable 9.2 percent growth rate for the two-month period.