(Adds CAAM officials' comments)
By Lusha Zhang and Norihiko Shirouzu
BEIJING, Nov 10 (Reuters) - China's vehicle sales rose in October for a fifth consecutive month, though will struggle to hit the 5 percent annual growth forecast set at the outset of the year, an industry association said on Friday.
Overall sales totalled 2.70 million vehicles last month, up 2 percent from a year prior, data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) showed. That took year-to-date sales to 22.9 million vehicles, up 4.1 percent from the same period a year earlier.
Vehicle sales in China have been rebounding since June, but CAAM officials remained cautious over full-year growth, pointing to underlying challenges in the market, which saw a slow start to the year due to tax incentives on smaller-engined cars being phased out.
Association officials on Friday said they were caught off guard by how slow October vehicle sales were.
"We didn't expect October sales to be this low," Chen Shihua, one of the CAAM officials who briefed reporters on the latest sales results, noted. Chen ascribed the relatively slow growth in part to an "insufficient" offering of discounts and other incentives by auto brands and retail stores.
Said another official, Shi Jianhua: "We would be lucky if overall vehicle sales grew 4 percent this year," compared with the 5 percent growth CAAM forecast for 2017 earlier in the year. In 2016, sales grew 13.7 percent.
CAAM data, meanwhile, showed sales of new-energy vehicles (NEV) in October rose 106.7 percent to about 91,000 amid a government push to support the sector and shift away from traditional petrol-engine cars in the long term.
NEV sales through October totalled about 490,000 vehicles, up 45.4 percent from a year earlier.
The association expects automakers to sell 700,000 NEVs this year, which refer to all-electric battery vehicles as well as plug-in petrol-electric hybrids.
The country has set strict quotas for NEVs which automakers must meet by 2019, a move that is prompting a flurry of electric car deals and new launches of electric and hybrid models as firms look to ensure they do not fall short. (Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)