According to Jiji Press, China’s vehicle production in 2005 is expected to soar 70.9% from 2002 to 5.3 million units as a string of foreign makers enter the country, according to a report by a private Japanese think tank on Tuesday.

The forecast by Fuji-keizai Co. puts China on a par with Germany, which ranks third after the United States and Japan in terms of vehicle production. In 2001, China was the eighth largest producer.

Fuji-keizai said in the report that China’s passenger car output in 2005 will likely jump 81.8% to two million units due to the start of production by Japanese automakers’ joint ventures in China, including Guangzhou Honda Automobile Co. of Honda Motor.

A joint venture between Toyota Motor Corp. and FAW Group Corp. and one between Nissan Motor Co. and Dongfang Motor Corp. have also started production of passenger vehicles in China to meet growing demand there.

As for commercial vehicles, Fuji-keizai forecasts that production will advance 65% to 3.3 million units, thanks to strong demand from the construction and transport industries.

The think tank estimates that vehicle sales in China will surge 71.8% to 5.43 million units. Of the total, passenger car sales are expected at 2.1 million units, up 79.9%.

As for China’s passenger car production in 2003, an affiliate of German automaker Volkswagen AG in Shanghai is expected to retain top position with a 24% share, followed by another Chinese affiliate of Volkswagen at 17.1%, Fuji-keizai said. In third, with a 10% share, will likely be a Shanghai affiliate of General Motors Corp. of the United States, followed by Guangzhou Honda’s 8.6%, it said, according to the report.