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China's January auto sales surge 46 per cent on pre-Lunar New Year shopping, strong SUV demand

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In this photo taken on Nov. 16, 2012, a worker walks along an assembling line at the Chana Auto plant in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality. China's auto sales rose 46 percent in January 2013 to a new monthly record on strong demand for SUVs in pre-Lunar New Year shopping, an industry group reported Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT


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BEIJING, China - China's auto sales rose 46 per cent in January to a monthly record on strong demand for SUVs in pre-Lunar New Year shopping, an industry group reported Friday.

Customers bought just over 2 million vehicles last month in China, the biggest auto market by number of vehicles sold, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

The figures probably were boosted as customers hurried to finish purchases before businesses closed for next week's Lunar New Year holiday. That is likely to depress February sales.

Global automakers are looking to China to drive revenues amid weakness elsewhere. But double-digit sales growth slowed to 7.1 per cent last year amid an economic slump and ownership restrictions imposed by some cities to curb traffic and smog.

In January, sales of sport utility vehicles rose 90.5 per cent to 240,700 while those of basic passenger vehicles rose 48.9 per cent to just under 1.2 million, according to the CAAM.

Sales of commercial vehicles lagged those of passenger cars. The group said truck sales overall declined 41.4 per cent while those of larger trucks declined 28.5 per cent.

General Motors Co. said earlier its sales of GM-brand vehicles in China rose 26 per cent in January to a monthly record of 310,765.

Ford Motor Co. said sales of Ford-brand vehicles, including imports, rose 135 per cent to 44,439 vehicles.

Germany's BMW Group said sales of its luxury sedans rose 14.7 per cent to 30,397 while sales by its MINI unit rose 20.3 per cent to 1,800 vehicles.

Japanese automakers have suffered amid tensions between Beijing and Tokyo over ownership of a group of uninhabited islands.

Japan's Nissan Motor Co. said its January sales rose 22.2 per cent to 115,700 vehicles, a rebound from a 5.3 per cent contraction last year.