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According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), total vehicle sales rose 13.4% to 1.8 million units in Apr compared with 13.2% to 5.4 million units in the first quarter of the year and 4.3% to 19.3 million vehicles in 2012.

Passenger vehicle (cars, multipurpose and sport- utility vehicles) sales rose 13.0% to 1.4 million units while commercial vehicle sales scaled up 15% to 400,300 units in April. For the first four months of the year, passenger vehicle sales rose 16.2% to 5.9 million units while total vehicle sales escalated 13.2% to 7.3 million units, according to CAAM.

Auto sales in the world’s largest market rose despite a fall in economic growth to 7.7% in the first quarter of the year from 7.9% in the previous quarter. The growth can be attributable to government-backed investments and easier bank finance.

Ford Motor Co. (F - Analyst Report) and its joint ventures in China posted an impressive 37.0% gain in sales to 75,331 vehicles driven by strong demand for Ford Focus and new Kuga models. Sales of Ford passenger car joint venture, Changan Ford Automobile, soared 55.0% to 52,713 vehicles. Ford’s commercial joint venture Jiangling Motors sold 20,731 units during the month.

Ford has embarked upon an aggressive expansion plan in China that includes plans to triple its lineup in China by introducing 15 models, including the Kuga small sport utility vehicle by 2015. Currently, the company sells seven models in the country. Ford’s crosstown rival General Motors Company (GM - Analyst Report) and its Chinese joint venture partners sold 261,870 vehicles in the month, up 15.3% from Apr 2012.

Japanese automakers continued to be the losers due to the political conflict between Beijing and Tokyo over disputed islands in the East China Sea. Sales of Japanese brands, including Toyota Motor Corp. (TM - Analyst Report) and Honda Motor Co. (HMC - Analyst Report), fell 4.9% year-over-year during the month.

Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY) is the only automaker that depicted a 2.7% rise in sales to 102,800 vehicles in April, after a series of monthly declines. Toyota and Honda reported a 6.5% and 2.4% decline in sales to 76,400 units and 60,596 units, respectively.

According to the Chinese government, total vehicle sales in China are expected to rise 7.8% to 20.8 million vehicles in 2013 from 19.3 million last year, led by strong demand for passenger vehicles and economic recovery. The CAAM believes SUVs will remain the fastest- growing segment in the year while commercial vehicles will record a moderate gain in sales.

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