May 10 -- China's passenger vehicle sales in April maintained the recovery pattern of the previous two months, easing industry worries about this year's outlook.
A total of 1,150,850 cars, sport utility vehicles, multi-purpose vehicles and minivans were sold in April. That figure was down 9.3 percent from March but up 6.3 percent from a year earlier, the China Passenger Car Association said on Wednesday.
Sales gains in three consecutive months "proved that China's vehicle market has already recovered from a recession at the end of last year", said Rao Da, secretary-general of the association.
Vehicle sales fell for four straight months starting in October.
He said that the recently concluded Beijing auto show, which presented many new models, as well as fuel price cuts and Japanese automakers' recovery from the longer-term impact of last year's earthquake will support further sales growth in May.
"Growth rates will be higher in the second half, along with acceleration in GDP growth. We predict a 7 percent year-on-year increase for the overall vehicle market and a more than 10 percent jump for the passenger vehicle segment for the whole year," said Rao.
Statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show that total vehicle sales in April, including commercial vehicles, were up 5.2 percent year-on-year at 1.6 million units.
The SUV sector maintained its leadership with 34 percent growth, while minivan sales dipped 0.3 percent as government stimulus measures ended, CAAM said on Wednesday.
General Motors Co, the largest foreign automaker in China by sales, delivered its 1 millionth vehicle for this year in the domestic market, on Monday.
"This is the sixth time and the earliest in our history that we have reached this important milestone in China. It has put us on track to once again set a new sales mark for the year as a whole," said Kevin Wale, president and managing director of the GM China Group.
The US auto conglomerate, which emerged from the bankruptcy protection it sought in 2009 in large part because of strong performance in China, set a new domestic sales record for April of 227,217 vehicles, up 11.7 percent year-on-year.
Another US-based auto producer, Ford Motor Co, reported April sales of 54,881 units, up 24 percent.
Mercedes-Benz China said on Wednesday that it delivered a combined 15,860 Mercedes-Benz, smart, AMG and Maybach vehicles in April, down 8 percent. It achieved sales of 70,580 units in the first four months, up 15 percent.
The German luxury vehicle producer attributed the sales decline in April to the selling-out of the high-volume B-Class, and other popular models' limited availability in China, including the recently launched all-new M-Class and the locally produced GLK.
"Since the beginning of the year, 70,580 cars have been delivered to customers in China, more than ever before during this period," said Klaus Maier, president and chief executive officer of Mercedes-Benz (China) Ltd.
He also said that he is still optimistic about China's automobile market for the whole year.
"Mercedes-Benz is therefore well on track to achieve its goal of double-digit growth in China in 2012," he said.