Auto sales in China, the world's largest car market, hit a monthly record of 1.89 million in January, data from an industry group showed Friday.

Sales last month rose 13.81 percent year on year, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said on its website.

Around 1.53 million passenger cars were sold in January, up 16.17 percent year on year, it said, while sales of commercial vehicles rose 4.89 percent to around 365,000.

Analysts attributed the bigger-than-expected growth to strong consumer spending and surging industrial demand for cars as China's economy continues to see blistering expansion.

"General consumer spending is expected to remain strong," Xia Ping, a Shanghai-based analyst with securities firm Core Pacific-Yamaichi, told AFP.

"Sales in large heavy vehicles increased rapidly in January partly due to infrastructure construction within China... and rising transportation demand amid the country's economic recovery."

Auto output in January went up 11.33 percent on year to 1.80 million units, the CAAM said.

China overtook the United States in 2009 to become the world's largest car market, which has made it hugely important for foreign manufacturers.

Auto sales in the country rose more than 32 percent last year to a record 18.06 million units as the economy quickly powered out of the financial crisis to grow by 10.3 percent in 2010, the fastest pace since 2007.

But growth in car sales is expected to ease this year as the government phases out policy incentives such as subsidies and introduces measures to restrict purchases.

US auto giant General Motors has said it expects its sales to grow at a slower pace of 10-15 percent in China this year.



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