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Car makers bullish on China auto sales for 2009

INTERNATIONAL car makers attending a media day for Auto Shanghai 2009 said yesterday they're optimistic that gains in China will help offset the downturn they're facing in other parts of the world.

With the launch of new models ranging from low-priced compacts to luxury vehicles and new energy concepts, several auto giants expressed confidence about market growth in China this year as a result of the government's economic stimulus efforts and special incentives for the industry.

"The government policies have been to the point and are working quite effectively," said Ying Tongyue, chairman of Chery Automobile Co Ltd, the nation's leading homegrown vehicle maker.

"Chinese consumers are gaining more confidence, and the robust sales performance may extend to the rest of the year."

Yin said Chery forecasts that China sales will rise 15 percent this year to 419,000 units.

China's passenger car sales rebounded 10 percent to hit a monthly high of 1.1 million in March, outpacing sales in the United States for the third straight month. Last year, China's vehicle sales posted their slowest growth in a decade at 6.7 percent due to the financial crisis.

The pick-up in China underlines the country's importance to most international car makers as they strive to ride out the global recession.

Kevin Wale, president and managing director of General Motors, also noted that the government stimulus effort - backed by 4 trillion yuan (US$585 billion) in spending - has been swift and effective.

"I think the market will continue to grow," he said. "I don't know whether the growth will be stronger than the first quarter, but we still expect the market to grow like 5 to 10 percent for the rest of the year."

General Motors Corp, which brought 37 vehicles and concept cars to the auto show, announced earlier it would double sales to 2 million units within five years by introducing 30 models.

Japan's Honda Motor estimated its China sales would increase 10 percent to 520,000 units this year.

The Chinese government launched incentives in mid-January, halving the tax on vehicles with engine displacements of 1.6-liter or below to 5 percent and offered 5 billion yuan in subsidies to rural residents to help spur the demand.


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