Toyota and Ford, two of the world's three largest auto makers, reported strong first-half sales in China's fast-growing market, where as relative newcomers they are competing to roll out new models to attract customers.
Toyota Motor Corp. sold 212,000 vehicles during the period, up 77 percent from a year earlier, powered by brisk demand for its Camry sedans, the best-selling car in the United States in eight of the past nine years.
Toyota, the world's biggest car maker, rolled out its first China-made Camry in May 2006 from a new plant in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, to wrest customers away from competing models such as Honda Motor's Accord.
Sales of the Camry came to nearly 78,000 units, well on track to hit the full-year target of 150,000, or more than one-third of Toyota's total China sales goal of 430,000 vehicles in 2007.
Ford Motor Co. said retail sales of its wholly owned brands in China rose 25 percent during the first half to 93,206 vehicles.
Sales of the mid-sized Focus sedan, made by a joint venture between Ford, Mazda Motor Corp and Changan Automobile Co. Ltd., came to 55,676 units, up 66 percent from a year ago, it said in a statement.
Demand for luxury models was also strong in China, as its growing ranks of nouveau riche snapped up the latest premium models.
Toyota sold 12,000 Lexus cars in the half-year, nearly matching the 13,000 sold in all of 2006 and well on track to meet its full-year 2007 target of 22,000.
Ford's Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover brands posted combined sales of 8,779 units, up 66 percent from a year earlier.
RAMPING UP CAPACITY
Both automakers lag rivals General Motors Corp. and Volkswagen AG in the China market, the world's second largest.
The industry's global giants are investing heavily to ramp up Chinese production capacity and grab a bigger share of the market, where total car sales grew 30 percent in 2006 to 5.18 million units.
Toyota, which commands 6 percent of the China car market, completed construction in May of its third plant in Tianjin, increasing capacity at its venture with FAW and its subsidiary Tianjin FAW Xiali Automobile Co. to 420,000 units.
It is also in discussions about building a second plant at its venture in south China, which makes the hot-selling Camry.
Ford, which has less than a 4 percent share in China, is expanding a facility in the southwest city of Chongqing along with its partners. They are also building a plant in Nanjing, in eastern China.
By the end of this year, it will boost its annual production capacity in China to 460,000 units, including 410,000 at Changan Ford Mazda and 50,000 at Jiangling Motors, in which it holds a 30 percent stake.