China car sales rise in first half on strong SUV demand

HONG KONG – China’s car sales expanded at a faster pace in the first half of the year, boosted by strong demand for sport utility vehicles in the world’s largest auto market, an industry group said Monday.

About 11 million passenger vehicles were sold in the January-June period, according to data released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. That’s 9.2 per cent more than the same period last year.

Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, rose 8.1 per cent to 12.8 million, the group said.

The surging popularity of SUVs among Chinese drivers has helped prop up industry sales growth after a slump last year. Cheaper Chinese-made SUVs have also helped domestic brands claw back market share from foreign auto brands that have long dominated the country’s auto market.

For June, total passenger vehicle sales jumped 17.7 per cent from the year before to 1.8 million. SUV sales surged 41 per cent to 632,000.

Sales of Chinese auto brands last month rose by a quarter to 717,000, pushing their market share up by 2.2 points to 40.2 per cent. Chinese SUV sales rose 62 per cent to 347,000 and accounted for more than half of total SUV sales.

Sales of U.S.-brand cars rose slightly in June, while sales of Japanese, German and other foreign brands slipped, the association said.