Updated: Tue, 08 Dec 2009 10:28:15 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

China leads in auto sales, production

China leads in auto sales, production

China's automobile production and sales more than doubled in November compared to a year earlier, surpassing one million vehicles and extending the country's lead over the U.S. as the world's biggest auto market.

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

"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.

Overall auto sales surpassed 12 million in the period from January to November, with the total for the year likely to exceed a record 13 million, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday. Those figures came from the Beijing-based China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Sales totalled 9.8 million units in 2008.

GM has had a banner year in China, despite struggling in its recession-wracked U.S. market.

Including minivans and other passenger cars, SAIC-GM-Wuling, its mini-vehicle venture in China, led sales in November, with 83,753 units sold.

Excluding minivans, Shanghai GM, General Motors Co.'s flagship joint venture with Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corp., led sales in November at 78,777, trailed by FAW-VW, Volkswagen AG's venture with FAW Group, selling 64,853, the association said.

Tax cuts helped sales

China's auto market is sizzling by any measure thanks largely to tax cuts and subsidies aimed at supporting the industry and encouraging 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 on account of languishing sales in the U.S.

January-October vehicle sales in the U.S. totalled 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 in December than in November.

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 of 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 automakers, analysts say.

A comparison of prices for similar models sold both in the U.S. and China shows even locally produced cars selling for much more in China than they do in the American market, the state-run newspaper China Business News reported Tuesday.

In China, it found a Toyota Camry with a 2.4-L engine sold for $29,200 US, or about 199,800 yuan. In the U.S., the same car sold for less than $22,000.

After last year's downturn, automakers cut production in anticipation of much slower sales, though they have since ramped up output. Car dealers say they still have waiting lists for some of the most popular models of cars, but overall production in November exceeded sales.

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