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China auto sales rise 23.7 per cent in November, powered by strong SUV demand, tax cuts

BEIJING, China – China’s auto sales grew at this year’s fastest rate in November as Chinese manufacturers took market share from global rivals, helped by the popularity of their lower-priced SUVs, an industry group reported Thursday.

Sales of cars, SUVs and minivans in the world’s biggest auto market rose 23.7 per cent over a year earlier to 2.2 million vehicles, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. That was an improvement over October’s 13.3 per cent rise.

Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, rose 20 per cent to 2.5 million vehicles.

Auto sales suffered an unexpectedly sharp contraction from June through August, sending shock waves through an industry that looks to China to drive future growth. Demand rebounded in September after Beijing cut sales taxes on vehicles with smaller engines.

November sales were helped by a 72 per cent rise in purchases of sport utility vehicles, especially Chinese brands in lower price tiers.

Sales by domestic Chinese auto brands outpaced the market, rising 26.9 per cent. Their market share grew by 1.1 percentage points to 41.9 per cent.

Sales of Chinese-brand SUVs soared 88.1 per cent to 395,000 vehicles. Their share of the SUV market expanded by 4.7 percentage points to 55.2 per cent.

China’s auto market has been cooling since growth peaked at 45 per cent in 2009 but this year’s plunge prompted analysts to cut growth forecasts. General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG reduced prices to spur sales.

Sales have been dented by measures imposed by Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities to curb smog and congestion by limiting new vehicle registrations.

This week, half the vehicles in Beijing were ordered off the road on alternate days after the Chinese capital’s air pollution spiked to dangerous levels.

November sales by German brands rose 18.2 per cent over a year earlier. Sales by Japanese brands rose 15.7 per cent and those of U.S. brands 12.4 per cent.

Longer-term, overall demand is expected to be helped by the Communist Party’s decision in October to allow all Chinese couples to have two children, easing restrictions that limited many to only one.

—GM, which along with Volkswagen AG is one of China’s most popular brands, said sales of GM vehicles by the company and its Chinese manufacturing partners rose 14 per cent to 346,671 and SUV sales more than tripled. Sales for the first 11 months of the year rose 4.1 per cent to just under 3.2 million units.

—Ford Motor Co. said sales rose 9 per cent to 106,283, accelerating from October’s 7 per cent. Sales of Mondeo sedans rose 13 per cent.

—Nissan Motor Co. sales jumped 21.9 per cent to 122,700 units. Year-to-date sales rose 5.1 per cent to just over 1 million.

—Toyota Motor Co. sales more than doubled, rising 113.5 per cent to 104,800 vehicles. Year-to-date sales doubled to 110 million.

—BMW AG, Europe’s biggest luxury car maker, said sales of BMW- and MINI-brand vehicles in China rose 3.2 per cent to 41,090 units.