New vehicle sales in China jumped by 15.4% to 2.8m units in December, from 2.4m units in the same month of last year, according to data released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Full-year sales rose by 4.7% to a record 24.6m units, from 23.5m units in 2014, driven by a 7.3% rise in light passenger vehicles to 21.1m units.
Growth last year was held back by registration restrictions imposed by city authorities across the country to help limit growth in road congestion and pollution. This contributed to slower sales in the first half of the year, but government incentives introduced in August for small cars with engines up to 1.6-litres lifted sales in the fourth quarter of the year.
SUVs were the main driver of market growth last year with sales rising by over 52% to 6.2m units – or almost 30% of total passenger vehicle sales. Domestic manufacturers benefited most of this growth.
MPV sales increased by 10% last year while sales of conventional passenger cars declined. Sales of commercial vehicles fell by 10% to 3.5m units, reflecting weakening growth in fixed investment, construction and industrial output. Truck sales were 11.4% lower.
General Motors said its local joint ventures, including SAIC-GM and SAIC-GM-Wuling, increased sales by 5.2% to 3.6m units last year.
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Volkswagen's sales at its two local joint ventures, SAIC-VW and FAW-VW, fell by 2.5% to 3.55m units – including imports. The company blamed its lack of presence in the SUV market for its under-performance.
Volkswagen brand sales fell by 4.6% to 2.63m units, while Audi sales were 1.4% lower at 570,000 units. The sports car division performed better, with Porsche sales rising by 24% to 58,000 units and Lamborghini sales up by 18% at 278 units.
Nissan's sales rose by 6.3% to 1.2m units last year, while Toyota's sales reached 1.12m (+8.7%); Ford 1.1m (+3%); Honda over 1m (estimated +6%); and Hyundai 1.09m (-4.6%).
Mercedes-Benz's sales rose by over 35% to 363,000 units last year, driven by intensive new product launches; while combined BMW and Mini sales rose by just 1.7% to 464,000 units.