Honda’s joint venture with a unit of China’s Denway Motors has rolled out 77,848 cars so far this year, up 70.6% on a year earlier, the Japanese car maker said on Monday, according to a Reuters report.

The news agency said car sales for the joint venture, Guangzhou Honda Automotive Co. Ltd., rose 67% year on year to 76,865 as of September 21.

The venture will finish upgrading its car production capacity to 240,000 a year in early 2004 after raising its production target by 5,000 to 117,000 cars for this year, Reuters added, noting that the factory produced 59,000 units in 2002.

Reuters noted that, among the firms scrambling for a piece of China’s booming car market, Honda has been one of the most successful and profitable, particularly thanks to the popularity of its flagship Accord model.

This month the company began selling its first 1.3-litre Fit (Jazz) subcompact cars, costing 99,800 yuan ($US12,060) a unit, Reuters said, adding that the firm plans to produce 16,000 Fits in 2003, about 4,000 short of a target set earlier in the year.

The joint venture also makes Odyssey minivans, the report added, noting that global car giants are investing billions of dollars in China production lines to cash in on a market that saw passenger car sales grow by 89% this year to the end of August.