SHANGHAI - Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC), one of China's top three vehicle makers, said on Monday it raised its car output forecast for 2003 by nearly 9 percent after a strong performance in the first four months.
SAIC now expects to make 500,000 cars this year, about 22 percent more than in 2002 compared to a forecast of 460,000 offered by executives in March.
"500,000 units is our aim," SAIC's spokesman Xue Hao told Reuters.
Sales in April alone leapt 32.7 percent on year to 46,800 units, Xue added, helped by increased purchases by people wanting to circumvent public transport during a raging outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
"People seem to be quite worried about taking public transport while SARS is still a problem, which has provided a boost to the car market," Xue said.
SARS has killed 240 people and infected nearly 5,000 in China.
Analysts have predicted growth of between 15 percent and 30 percent in demand for cars in 2003. SAIC's sold 170,000 cars in the first four months, Xue said without giving a comparison.
SAIC, which operates joint ventures with General Motors and Volkswagen AG, also expects turnover of 150 billion yuan ($18.12 billion) to 156 billion yuan this year, company executives have said.
Revenue rose 22.4 percent to 120 billion yuan in 2002.
The automaker sold 410,000 cars last year, out of 610,000 vehicles produced, helped by buoyant demand in the world's fastest-growing major auto market.
Analysts say China's car market -- where sales topped one million for the first time in 2002 -- is headed for a price war as automakers ramp up capacity and vie for a piece of the action.