Chinese car maker Brilliance China Automotive Holdings said on Thursday said it had sold about 15,500 Zhonghua cars in the first half of 2003, putting it on course to meet a full-year target of 30,000, Reuters reported.

According to the news agency, China's largest minivan maker said in a statement that it logged average monthly sales of 2,583 Zhonghuas from January to June.

Reuters said the Hong Kong-listed company began making the sedan last August in a first foray into the relatively more lucrative car market and has sold 24,000, it said.

Brilliance also sold 35,900 minivans - its main model - in the first half, up about 22% year on year, Reuters said.

Reuters noted that Brilliance China, which makes minivans and cars at a 51% owned joint venture with Shanghai-listed Shenyang Jinbei Automotive, recently signed a deal to start making luxury cars in China with BMW.

The news agency also noted that the company, controlled by the government of the northeastern province of Liaoning, slashed the prices for 2.0 litre and 2.4 litre manual cars by 11,000 yuan (US$1,330) at the end of May to boost sales as competition in China's car market accelerates to match production boosts while tariffs on imported cars fall.

According to Reuters, the Zhonghua now costs 157,800 yuan and 177,800 yuan, respectively, around 20,000 yuan less than the targeted competitor, Volkswagen's Passat.

Brilliance expects its car operation, which lost 250-300 million yuan ($US30-36 million) in 2002, to turn a profit this year, Reuters added.