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Monday, January 11, 2010

China tops global auto mkt in 2009, challenges ahead

China's auto sales surged past the United States to reach record levels last year on government incentives, and automakers are poised for solid but slower growth in the world's fastest growing major auto market in 2010.

After a landmark year in which China zoomed past the United States and Chinese automakers made key acquisitions abroad, Beijing's renewed policy incentives to bolster demand will likely keep it as a bright spot for car manufacturers battered by the financial crisis.

Vehicle sales in the country came to a record 13.6 million units in 2009, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said on Monday, well above the country's previous target of 10 million units.

That compared with annual sales of 10.4 million cars and light trucks sold in the United States, the lowest level in 27 years.

The Chinese tally, which also includes heavy vehicles, is still higher than that of the United States after deducting roughly 650,000 units of heavy trucks, Orient Securities said.

"Sales have been extremely hot in most parts of last year with little seasonal changes. Many people have to wait for weeks or even months to get their cars," said Qin Xuwen, an analyst with Orient Securities.

China's passenger car sales jumped 52.9 percent to 10.3 million units in 2009, rebounding sharply from single-digit growth a year earlier, official data showed.

Sales in December surged 88.7 percent to 1.1 million units, topping 1 million units for monthly sales for the third time this year.

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