11/24/2009, 00.00
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China set to overtake US as world’s top car market

Car sales in China are expected to hit 13 million mark this year, four more than last year, because of government stimulus package. However, experts warn that sales should drop next year.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China is set to overtake the United States as the world’s top car market. Strong domestic demand will offset still lacklustre exports, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said. Mainland sales are expected in fact to reach 13 million units this year, up from last year's 9.38 million units, replacing the United States as the world's leading car consumer.

Soh Weiming, an executive vice-president for sales and marketing at Volkswagen Group China, said the mainland market remained robust despite the situation of the world economy.

General Motors China president Kevin Wale said that mainland sales would rise 50 per cent this year.

The central government has implemented support measures for the car industry to boost domestic sales this year.  Stimulus policies have included cutting consumption taxes on cars with an engine capacity of 1.6 litres or below to 5 per cent from 10 per cent, and giving subsidies to villagers of up to 5,000 yuan to buy a small car. Indeed, industry players are lobbying Beijing to keep those measures in place over the next year.

Masahiro Kato, the president of Toyota's China operations, said his company had made China its key growth market. Toyota China's sales should rise about 17 per cent to 700,000 vehicles this year from 600,000 last year. The carmaker also plans to launch its hybrid New Prius and Camry in the mainland market in the coming year, with a goal of 800,000 vehicles next year.

Experts fear however that the new year might bring a slump instead. GM China sounded a note of caution by forecasting the mainland market would record slower growth of 10 to 15 per cent next year.

“The impact of the stimulus package for the car industry will decelerate if the government continues to execute the measures,” said Yale Zhang, a director of Greater China vehicle forecast.

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