China Passenger-Vehicle Sales Surge as SUV Sales Double

China’s passenger-vehicle sales surged 49 percent to a monthly record, beating analysts’ estimates, as demand for SUVs almost doubled and Ford Motor Co. extended gains in market share.

Wholesale deliveries, including multipurpose and sport utility vehicles, climbed to 1.73 million units in January, the state-backed China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said in an e-mail yesterday. That compares with the 1.5 million unit average of six analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Toyota Motor Corp. saw sales gain for the first time in seven months and General Motors Co. delivered a record number of vehicles, helped by this month’s week-long Lunar New Year holidays, which occurred in January last year. Growth in China’s total vehicle market, including trucks and buses, will probably accelerate this year and surpass 20 million for the first time on a rebound in economic growth and urbanization, according to estimates by the association last month.

“This is a good start but it’s difficult to judge the market performance just based on one month,” said John Zeng, director of Asian forecasting at LMC Automotive in Shanghai. “SUVs are not a surprise since there are many model activities at the moment by both local and foreign automakers.”

Total sales of vehicles rose 46 percent to 2.03 million units last month, according to the association.

Sales of SUVs, the fastest-growing segment last year, continued continued their gains in January, surging 91 percent to 240,700 units. Sedan deliveries gained 49 percent to 1.19 million vehicles.

Volkswagen AG’s Lavida became the best-selling sedan last month, overtaking Ford.’s Focus, which had been the top seller for five straight months.

The holiday distortion means that sales may decline in February. Economists and analysts typically calculate January and February figures together to explain the Chinese market.

China’s economy grew 7.9 percent from a year earlier in the last three months of 2012, the first acceleration in two years. The pace may quicken to 8.1 percent in the first quarter, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey last month.

Japan Rebound

Japan’s three largest automakers reported their first gains since rioters in China smashed Japanese-brand cars in September, adding to evidence a consumer backlash sparked by a territorial dispute is fading.

Nissan Motor Co., the top-selling Japanese automaker in China, and Honda Motor Co. both posted 22 percent gains in January deliveries to 115,700 and 47,248 units, respectively. Toyota, which this week raised its profit forecast on a weaker yen, boosted sales 24 percent to 72,500.

Among U.S. carmakers, Ford reported deliveries in China almost doubled last month to 61,475 units. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker began selling the Kuga SUV last month and plans to introduce the Ecosport compact SUV by March as part of plans to bring 15 new models into China by 2015.

GM saw deliveries increase 26 percent to 310,765 units on demand for its Wuling minivans and Buick and Chevrolet brands.

— With assistance by Alexandra Ho

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