Car sales hit a record monthly high in October, industry data showed Wednesday, as festive demand, the launch of new models and cheap loans saw consumers flocking to showrooms.

Sales jumped 38 percent to 182,992 units in October from 132,615 a year earlier, according to data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).

Truck and bus sales - seen as a crucial indicator of economic growth - rose 18 percent to 50,835 units.

"October demand was good due to the festive season. The basic fundamentals of the industry remain strong," SIAM Director General Vishnu Mathur told reporters in New Delhi.

India's festival season, which runs from August to November, peaked in early November with Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, seen as an auspicious time to make big-ticket purchases such as cars.

"Interest rates continue to be favourable despite a marginal increase and there is strong availability of financing" - all factors driving purchases, Mathur added.

Officials said the pace of growth could slow in the months ahead, but the overall number of cars being shifted would be higher compared to a year earlier.

India is fast turning into a major battleground for global vehicle manufacturers such as Ford, Renault-Nissan, General Motors and Volkswagen, which have each launched new models in the country, eyeing rapid growth.

India's auto industry is projected to expand between 18 and 20 percent for the fiscal year ending March 2011, higher than an earlier forecast of 12 to 13 percent, SIAM said last month.

The strong car sales figures come as India's economy is projected to grow by around 8.5 percent in the current financial year to March 2011 and by nine percent next year.

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