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GM Says China Sales Soar In 2009

General Motors said 2009 sales in China rose 67 percent to record 1.8 million vehicles amid tax cuts and incentives to help boost the industry.

BEIJING (AP) -- General Motors Co. said Monday that 2009 sales in China by the company and its local partners rose 67 percent to a record 1.8 million vehicles amid tax cuts and incentives to help boost the industry.

Detroit-based GM and other global automakers are looking to China's fast-growing market to drive sales amid slack demand elsewhere. Chinese auto purchases surpassed those in the United States for all but two of the first 11 months of the year. Total sales for December are yet to be released.

GM said its own China sales in December soared 96.6 percent from a year earlier to a new monthly high of 189,793 vehicles.

"Despite the sales records in 2009, it looks as if 2010 will be even stronger. The industry outlook is strong and we expect more growth, albeit on a somewhat slower pace," GM China president Kevin Wale said in a statement.

Beijing has helped to boost auto sales with tax cuts and subsidies for drivers to shift to cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars. Most of that aid has gone to Chinese makers of smaller cars, though foreign producers also see sales rising.

GM and other automakers are looking to first-time buyers in smaller Chinese cities to help drive sales as incomes outside the country's prosperous east coast rise.

GM said its SAIC-GM-Wuling joint venture with local partners Shanghai Automotive Industries Corp. and Wuling became the country's first automaker to exceed 1 million units in annual sales in 2009. It said sales rose 63.9 percent to 1.06 million vehicles.

Sales by Shanghai GM, a joint venture with SAIC, rose 63.3 percent to 727,620 units, GM said.

GM's corporate operations in China also expanded rapidly in 2009. The company opened a science laboratory and a vehicle safety lab and broke ground on what it says is China's biggest vehicle proving ground.

Last month, GM and SAIC announced they were launching a new venture to produce and sell cars in India. GM gave SAIC majority ownership of their joint venture as part of the deal in a move that industry analysts said was driven by the U.S. company's need for Chinese money to support its global investment plans.

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