UPDATE 1-VW 2010 China auto sales strong, to invest $14 bln

Fri Jan 7, 2011 7:10am EST

* 2010 China auto sales up 37 pct yr-on-yr

* To invest $14 bln in China till 2015

* See sustainable growth in coming years

(Adds China investment, executive's quote"

BEIJING, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Top European automaker Volkswagen AG (VOWG.DE) sold 37 percent more vehicles in mainland China and Hong Kong last year and pledged to invest 10.6 billion euros ($13.8 billion) in the country through 2015.

The investment is earmarked to expand Volkswagen's production capacity and develop new products, it said in a statement on Friday.

Volkswagen, which operates car ventures with Chinese state auto groups SAIC Motor (600104.SS) and FAW Group, sold 1.92 million cars in mainland China and Hong Kong in 2010, up from 1.40 million a year earlier, it said.

Sales of Volkswagen brands rose 35 percent to 1.51 million units, with sales of Audi models up 43 percent to 227,938, it said.

China, which eclipsed the United States as the world's top auto market in 2009, has been a major bright spot amid a global industry still recovering from a steep downturn.

But the market is expected to return to a more rational growth pattern after breakneck expansions in the past two years after the government scrapped its policy incentives effective Jan. 1.

In the statement, Karl-Thomas Neumann, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group China, said he still expected a good performance in the country in the coming years.

"Based on our solid performance and strong partnership with SAIC and FAW, we are well prepared for long-term sustainable growth," he added. (Reporting by Fang Yan and Ken Wills) ($1=.7700 Euro)

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