China's November auto sales accelerate on SUV popularity

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BEIJING (AP) — 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 percent 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 percent rise.

Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, rose 20 percent 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 percent 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 percent. Their market share grew by 1.1 percentage points to 41.9 percent.

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

China's auto market has been cooling since growth peaked at 45 percent 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 percent over a year earlier. Sales by Japanese brands rose 15.7 percent and those of U.S. brands 12.4 percent.

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 percent to 346,671 and SUV sales more than tripled. Sales for the first 11 months of the year rose 4.1 percent to just under 3.2 million units.

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

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

—Toyota Motor Co. sales more than doubled, rising 113.5 percent 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 percent to 41,090 units.

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