Toyota on Thursday was reported to have more than doubled its vehicle sales in China in the first nine months, outpacing rivals and the market thanks to accelerated expansion in the world's second largest market.

The relative latecomer to China moved 203,000 vehicles out of showrooms from January to September - meeting nearly three quarters of its 2006 sales target of 278,000 units, a company executive told Reuters on Thursday.

That outperformed even the 105.5% growth in nine-month sales trumpeted by Ford this week - another latecomer in a hotly contested market now dominated by General Motors and Volkswagen, the report added.

Toyota's sales came to 33,000 units in September alone, up 188% from the same period in 2005, helped in part by the introduction of its Chinese-built Camry sedan - the best selling car in the United States in eight of the past nine years.

"At this speed, Toyota could topple GM as the top foreign auto seller in China as early as in 2008," Zhang Xin, a senior industry analyst with Guotai Junan Securities, told Reuters.

The Detroit giant, which sold 453,832 vehicles in China in the first half of 2006, has not released results for the first three quarters, the news agency noted, adding that Ford sold 114,685 units in China in the same period, while Volkswagen moved 524,558 vehicles, up 28.7% from a year earlier.

Toyota, the world's second-largest auto maker, also vastly outshone a 34% gain in China's overall passenger car market, where 455,539 units were sold from January to September, according to figures provided to the news agency by a Shanghai auto association.

Analysts told Reuters a high oil price environment was helping Toyota - which like other Japanese auto makers is perceived to produce more fuel-efficient cars - in China, but new models were helping also.

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