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December 9, 2009

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Car sales, production top million vehicles

CHINA extended its lead over the United States as the world's biggest auto market in November, with production and sales more than doubling from a year earlier to both surpass 1 million vehicles.

The Shanghai-based China Passenger Car Association, a private research group, yesterday reported that sales of cars and trucks hit 1.01 million in November, up 104 percent from the same month last year, while production was 1.08 million, up 101 percent.

"It is strong evidence of how hot automobile sales are in China, despite oil price hikes and bad snow," Rao Da, secretary general of the association, told reporters.

Total vehicle sales surpassed 12 million in January-November, with the total for the year likely to exceed a record 13 million, the Beijing-based China Association of Automobile Manufacturers reported on Monday. In 2008, sales totaled 9.8 million units.

The government-affiliated CAAM said yesterday that passenger car sales, including SUVs and multi-purpose vehicles, totaled 9.23 million in the first 11 months of the year, up 50 percent from a year earlier.

China's auto market is sizzling, by any measure, thanks largely to tax cuts and subsidies aimed at supporting the industry and encouraging the use of more fuel efficient vehicles.

The boom in sales has clinched China's status, at least for now, as the world's biggest vehicle market due to languishing sales in the US.

January-October vehicle sales in the US totaled 8.6 million compared with Autodata CorpChina's figure for 10.9 million in China during the same period.

Rao forecast that car makers would record even higher sales this month.

The huge increase from a year before partly reflects a downturn in sales late last year, as the economy began to feel the worst of the impact from the global financial crisis.

But demand has been strong enough to alleviate pressure to cut prices in the intensely competitive market, boosting profitability for many auto makers, analysts say.

A comparison of prices for similar models sold both in the US and China shows even locally produced cars selling for much more in China than they do in the American market, China Business News said. It said a Toyota Camry with a 2.4L engine, for example, sells for about US$22,000 in the US but is priced at 199,800 yuan (US$29,200) in China.


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