China’s passenger car sales jumped 63 percent in March from a year earlier as manufacturers scrambled to meet strong demand driven by tax cuts and government subsidies, a state-affiliated industry group reported on Friday.

Passenger car sales rose to 1.26 million vehicles in March, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Weak sales in the United States and a surge in car purchases by newly affluent Chinese buyers helped to make this the world’s largest auto market last year, when total vehicle sales jumped 45 percent over 2008 to 13.6 million units.

The association reported that total vehicle sales rose 56 percent in March from a year earlier to 1.7 million units, bringing sales for the first three months of the year to 4.6 million.

“Passenger car sales turned out to be even better than earlier market estimates,” said Rao Da, general secretary of another industry group, the Shanghai-based China Passenger Car Association, which released separate data showing similar trends.

“We are confident that China’s vehicle sales will surpass 17 million units this year, growing by about 25 percent,” he said.

Production of passenger cars rose 72 percent from a year earlier in March, to 1.3 million units, the CAAM reported, while first quarter output totalled 3.5 million units, up 84 percent.

Chinese automakers slowed production in late 2008 and early 2009 as the global economic woes dragged sales sharply lower. By mid-year, car factories were struggling to keep up with reviving demand thanks to government rescue measures and China’s economic recovery.

Keywords: Car sales

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