China auto sales surge on Japanese rebound

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SHANGHAI (Bloomberg) -- China's passenger-vehicle sales rose 21 percent in September to an eight-month high, as Japanese automakers rebounded from the consumer backlash sparked by a territorial dispute last year.

Wholesale deliveries of cars, multipurpose vehicles and SUVs climbed to 1.59 million units last month, the most since the 1.73 million sold in January, the state-backed China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said Friday.

That compared with the 1.5 million-unit median estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Protests erupted across China last September after Japan moved to purchase a group of disputed islands -- known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China -- from their private owner.

Japanese cars were vandalized and businesses attacked, and the ensuing slump in demand caused Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. to report their first annual sales declines on record in the world's largest vehicle market.

"Last September was the peak of the anti-Japanese sentiment, so we are coming off a low base," said Harry Chen, a Shenzhen-based analyst at Guotai Junan Securities Co. "The Japanese have improved a lot, but their recovery is still incomplete."

Total sales of vehicles, including buses and trucks, gained 20 percent to 1.94 million units last month, the association said. In the first nine months of the year, 15.9 million vehicles were delivered, putting sales on track to reach the 20 million units for the full year estimated by the association.

SUV sales

Sales of SUVs jumped 65 percent to 283,600 units last month, while deliveries of multipurpose vehicles surged 195 percent to 122,900 units. Sedan deliveries gained 15 percent to 1.07 million vehicles.

Ford Motor Co.'s Focus was the best-selling sedan last month, with Great Wall Motor Co.'s Haval line remaining the nation's top-selling SUV.

Japan's three biggest automakers reported a surge in sales in China last month. Honda led the rebound as deliveries more than doubled from a year earlier to the highest in 21 months, according to company figures. Toyota's deliveries climbed 63 percent and Nissan Motor Co.'s sales, excluding multipurpose vehicles, rose 83 percent.

Volkswagen, GM

Volkswagen AG, Europe's largest automaker, outsold General Motors in China in the first nine months of the year.

Volkswagen, which includes Hong Kong in its China figures, delivered 2.36 million vehicles for the January-to-September period, compared with 2.31 million units by GM, according to statements by the companies.

Ford's sales in China jumped 61 percent last month to 96,111 vehicles.

Volkswagen AG boosted deliveries of its namesake-branded vehicles by 18 percent to 1.79 million, the company said in a statement.

Luxury brands continued to outpace industry sales last month. Audi, the top-selling luxury brand in China, surged 28 percent due to the popularity of its Q3 and Q5 SUVs. Daimler AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, and BMW AG each reported a 21 percent gain in sales.

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