Auto sales in China could hit 17 million units this year, up from 13.6 million in 2009, state media said Monday, citing the China Association for Auto Manufacturers.

Sales of 17 million units would represent a 25 percent increase over 2009 when China overtook the United States to become the world's largest auto market, Xinhua news agency said.

Annual sales of 17 million would equal the highest yearly figure ever reached in the United States, Xinhua added.

Auto sales in China last year were up 46 percent over 2008.

Sales in August jumped 55 percent year-on-year, while last month sales were expected to be up by nearly 40 percent over September 2009, it said.

The rapid expansion of the sector has been a cause of celebration in the nation's automobile industry, but has also led to concerns, most notably widespread urban gridlock and increasing air pollution.

"The growth in the auto sector should be maintained at about one and a half times the growth in gross domestic product," Xinhua quoted Xu Changming, an official in charge of resource development at the State Information Centre.

Even if the number of cars manufactured in China in the future does not increase by more than 10 percent per year, total sales should surpass 40 million units annually before 2020 and could attain 75 million by 2030, Xinhua said.

In Beijing, the number of cars registered in the city are increasing 1,900 a day, with seven million expected to clog city roads by 2017, up from 4.5 million currently in the capital, the Beijing News said, citing a city transport official.



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