China will actively promote auto imports over the next five years to help the country restructure and upgrade its auto industry, the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) said.

The auto import-promotion strategy will be implemented during the 12th Five-year Plan period (2011-2015) through corresponding financial, taxation and trade policies, Qian Jingfen, an official in charge of imports at the MoC's Industrial Department, told an auto imports forum in Beijing.

Qian said China will encourage the imports of advanced auto equipment, key technologies and components of energy-saving and new-energy vehicles in the period.

The MoC decided to transfer to provincial-level government departments its power of granting automatic import licensing of 16 auto components, including automotive chassis, brakes and drive axles beginning 2011.

China's auto sales in the first 11 months hit 16.4 million units and the figures were expected to reach 18 million units this year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM).

China overtook the United States last year to become the world's largest auto market by selling 13.65 million vehicles, up 46 percent year-on-year, while production that year jumped 48 percent to reach 13.79 million units.

If 18 million units were sold this year, this would mean an increase in both vehicle sales and production of more than 30 percent compared to last year.

Despite the auto sales surge in China, imports of completely built units account for less than 5 percent of market share as world's major automakers set up joint ventures with Chinese partners to satisfy the vast Chinese market.