China exported almost half a million cars during the first half of this year, registering an impressive growth of 28% despite a weak global economy and sluggish sales.

Figures from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) show that China exported 487,900 cars in the January-June period.

Although China became the world's largest automobile producer and market in 2009 with annual sales of nearly 14m vehicles, its domestic carmakers still face challenges in going global, according to industry insiders.

The appreciation of China's currency and the rising cost of labour and materials have dulled the competitive edge of Chinese auto brands. Additionally, they lack clear overseas development strategies, advanced operational philosophies and the ability to conduct significant research and development.

However, Geely Group said is ready to expand its European market. Huang Haitao, deputy general manager of sales said the company's exports during the first half were double those of the same period last year, adding that it exported more than 6,500 cars in May and over 10,000 units in June.

He expects Geely’s exports this year to double that of 2011 and exceed 80,000 units. The carmaker's total sales in the first six months of 2012 came to 223,000 units, a gain of 4.2% year on year and representing 48.2% of its full-year sales target of 460,000 units.

In Russia, the Chongqing-based Lifan Group sold 4,545 cars during the first quarter, up by 69% from the same period last year; Chery Automobile's exports during the period were 2.5 times that of last year.

Xing Wenlin, vice president of Great Wall Motor (GWM), said his company has been exporting cars to countries like Russia, Australia, Italy, and Chile. GWM's exports to Russia reached 20,000 units last year, about 25% of the company's total exports. The company exported 9,000 units to Russia during the first five months of the year, a growth of 32%.

China's total vehicle sales hit 9.6m units in the first half of 2012, up 2.93% year on year according to data released by CAAM.