General Motors on Thursday (27 October) said that its sales in the first three quarters of 2005 rose 27.8% from a year earlier, helped by a rebound in sales following a slow start.

Analysts told The Associated Press (AP) that a large share of the growth in GM’s sales in China, which totaled 472,468 vehicles between January and September, was from a mini-vehicle joint venture with partners Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corp. (SAIC) and Wuling Automotive.

SAIC-GM-Wuling, China’s biggest maker of mini-vehicles, makes Wuling brand mini-trucks and minivans and the Chevrolet Spark mini-car. GM owns a 34% stake in the joint venture, which has the capacity to turn out 300,000 vehicles a year and is struggling to keep up with demand, AP noted.

Higher sales by the Wuling joint venture might not mean strong earnings growth since the low-cost mini-vehicles have low profit margins, the report said.

China’s passenger-car makers reported a 52.9% year-on-year drop in profits in the first three quarters of this year, according to a report earlier this week by the National Bureau of Statistics, The Associated Press noted.