China’s biggest maker of minivans, Brilliance China Automotive Holdings, said on Monday its mainland joint venture increased sales by 20% year on year in the first seven months, keeping pace with brisk economic growth, Reuters reported.

It sold 42,000 minivans between January and July at a 51%-owned joint venture with Shenyang Jinbei Automotive, the companies told the news agency.

“The venture now controls more than 50% of the minivan market and about 70% of the seven-to-12 seat vehicle segment,” Brilliance reportedly said in a statement.

Reuters said Brilliance would cut between 8,000 yuan ($US965) and 22,500 yuan off the price of seven types of minivan – the second time in two months it has trimmed prices to fend off growing competition in the world’s fastest-growing major vehicle market.

Its minivans are now priced from 70,000 yuan to 250,000 yuan and it sold more than 65,000 minivans in 2002, the report added.

Reuters noted that rivalry in China’s vehicle market has accelerated with sales surging more than 30% to over three million vehicles last year alone.

But the news agency added that Brilliance posted a 28% drop in 2002 net profit to 651 million yuan, blamed on a costly foray into the sedan market after the Hong Kong-listed company began making the Zhonghua sedan last August in a maiden attempt to tap the relatively lucrative car market, aiming to sell 30,000 units this year.

Brilliance recently struck a deal with BMW to produce the German firm’s luxury cars in China late this year, Reuters added.