SHANGHAI (Reuters) -- China's biggest maker of minivans, Brilliance China Automotive Holdings, said on Monday its mainland joint venture increased sales by 20 percent year on year in the first seven months, keeping pace with brisk economic growth.
It sold 42,000 minivans between January and July at a 51-percent owned joint venture with Shenyang Jinbei Automotive, the companies said.
"The venture now controls more than 50 percent of the minivan market and about 70 percent of the seven-to-12 seat vehicle segment," Brilliance said in a statement.
Brilliance would lop between 8,000 yuan ($965) and 22,500 yuan off the price of seven types of minivan -- the second time in two months it has trimmed prices to fend off growing competition in the world's fastest-growing major vehicle market.
Its minivans are now priced from 70,000 yuan to 250,000 yuan, it said. Brilliance sold more than 65,000 minivans in 2002.
Rivalry in China's vehicle market has accelerated with sales surging more than 30 percent to over three million vehicles last year alone.
But Brilliance posted a 28 percent drop in 2002 net profit to 651 million yuan, blamed on a costly foray into the sedan market.
The Hong Kong-listed company began making the Zhonghua sedan last August in a maiden attempt to tap the relatively lucrative car market, aiming to sell 30,000 units this year.
It recently struck a deal with BMW to produce the German firm's luxury cars in China late this year.
Shares in Brilliance, which has been locked in an ownership wrangle with former chairman Yang Rong, were up 6.1 percent at HK$2.60 in late afternoon trade. They have risen 26.9 percent in the past three months.