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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - General Motors (NYSE:GM - News), the world's top car maker, posted a near-70 percent leap in first-quarter vehicle sales in China, revving past a market that grew about 45 percent in the same period, the company said.

General Motors Corp sold 122,097 vehicles in the first three months of 2004 from several ventures across the country, an increase of 69.9 percent, it said in a statement posted on its Web site (www.gmchina.com), seen by Reuters on Monday.

That should help the Detroit-based auto maker grab market share from rivals, especially Germany's Volkswagen AG (XETRA:VOWG.DE - News) -- the country's pre-eminent car maker with a commanding 33 percent of sales at the end of 2003.

Volkswagen posted a rise in China sales of just 5.5 percent in the January-March period to 170,900 vehicles.

GM executives were not available for comment.

The U.S. firm embarked on an ambitious expansion this year, working with partner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp to revive a loss-making venture in the northeast and taking over an engine factory owned formerly by defunct South Korean firm Daewoo.

GM more than tripled its earnings in China in 2003 to $437 million as it ramped up production to meet surging demand in the world's fastest-growing major car market.

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Interesting sales figures...

So GM sat at 21.5% share for the first quarter, from 8.7% share for all of 2003?! Presuming most of those sales are Buicks, that would mean that Buick China is set to outsell Buick USA for 2004.

And VW fell to 30.1% from about 33% share for all of 2003? Hmmm, if this is true, methinks VW cannot get a break anywhere in the world, eh? I can't say that I'll lose any sleep.
 
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