Honda Motor's China vehicle sales rose 18.5% in the first nine months of this year, reportedly underperforming growth of the overall market and of other foreign car makers.

Honda sold 225,974 vehicles in China during the period, up from 190,651 in the first nine months of 2005, Reuters reported - sales at its Guangzhou Honda venture climbed 7.7% to 185,690 vehicles, while sales at its venture in central China gained 21% to 40,284.

China's overall vehicle sales surged 25% to 5.17 million units in the January to September period, according to figures provided by the national auto association.

Reuters noted that Toyota, which analysts say may overtake General Motors as the top foreign auto seller in China as early as 2008, sold 203,000 vehicles in China during the period, a jump of 164%.

Ford sold 114,685 vehicles in the period, up 105.5% from a year earlier, while Volkswagen moved 524,558 vehicles, up 28.7%.

General Motors sales in China rose 36.7% in the first nine months from a year earlier, and it expected sales for all of 2006 to jump 30%, a separate news agency report said.

GM reportedly sold 645,680 vehicles via its two local ventures in the January-September period, it said in a statement. "For the year as a whole, GM and our joint ventures are on track to again outpace the market. We anticipate annual sales growth of about 30%."

According to Reuters, analysts blame Honda's relatively moderate growth on a limited product portfolio, as it has been slower than some rivals, including GM, to roll out new models.

The Accord, a mid-range Honda sedan sold in China since the late 1990s, has been its most popular model in the country but competing models such as Toyota's Camry, launched in May, are now grabbing customers.

"It's a tough market here. Honda needs to bring in new models and replicate the success of the Accord," Zhao Shengli, a senior industry analyst with Galaxy Securities, told Reuters.

Auto market intelligence
from just-auto

• Auto component fitment forecasts
• OEM & tier 1 profiles & factory finder
• Analysis of 30+ auto technologies & more