BEIJING (AP) -- General Motors and Ford reported first-half sales grew strongly in China's booming auto market Tuesday, a rare bright spot for global automakers.
GM said sales of its Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac brands rose 12.7 percent from the first half of last year to 590,126 vehicles. Ford Motor Co. said its sales rose 21 percent from the year-earlier period to 172,411 vehicles.
Growth was weaker than the stunning rates reported in 2007, when Ford's China sales grew by 30 percent. But they still were far stronger than in North America, where automakers are idling factories amid a severe sales downturn.
"The Chinese vehicle market has continued to grow in 2008, setting a new first half sales record," said Kevin Wale, president of GM China, in a written statement.
Auto sales have been driven by fast-rising incomes in an economy that is forecast to grow by at least 9 percent this year.
General Motors Corp. said its growth was driven by the popularity of its Chevrolet brand, which saw sales jump 34.6 percent in the first half to 109,131 units.
U.S., European and Japanese automakers and their local partners are investing heavily to expand production and sales in China, the world's second-largest vehicle market after the United States.
"Despite challenging events that had significant impact in China and on the economy as a whole this year, we were still able to achieve healthy growth through the first six months," said Robert Graziano, president and CEO of Ford Motor China, in a written statement.
Auto sales in China have been largely unaffected by high global oil prices because government controls have kept retail gasoline and diesel prices at levels that are among the world's lowest. Automakers say sales of SUVs and luxury sedans are growing at annual rates of up to 100 percent.