Chery Automobile 2006 car sales jumped 61% to 305,200 spurred by the launch of new models.

The company, based in Wuhu in the eastern province of Anhui, sold 185,000 cars in 2005, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.

Citing the official Xinhua News Agency, AFP added that the increase was the fastest growth by a Chinese-brand car manufacturer, making the nine-year-old company the fourth largest passenger vehicle producer in China in terms of sales after the Sino-foreign joint ventures Shanghai GM, Shanghai Volkswagen and FAW-Volkswagen.

Spokesman Wang Chao told AFP Chery sold 253,600 cars in China alone last year, topping its total sales of 185,000 units both at home and abroad in 2005.

Overseas sales reached 51,600 cars last year, up from 18,000 in 2005, as the company built up assembly plants in key markets such as Russia, Egypt and Iran, he reportedly added.

The Chinese automaker was recently reported to have reached a basic agreement to build small cars for DaimlerChrysler and supply the global market.

Wang told Agence France Presse an agreement could possibly be signed this month once the plan gets approval from the Chinese government and the supervisory board of DaimlerChrysler.