SAIC sees auto sales accelerate 35 pct in January

Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:25am EST

* Annual holiday spree lifts sales

* Analysts say market may lose momentum in coming months

* Add SAIC may still outpace market growth

(Adds analyst comment, detail)

By Fang Yan and Ken Wills

BEIJING, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Top Chinese automaker SAIC Motor Corp (600104.SS) sold 35 percent more vehicles in January than in the same month last year, as a holiday buying spree helped it extend momentum from late 2010.

SAIC, which runs vehicle manufacturing ventures with General Motors (GM.N) and Volkswagen (VOWG.DE), said on Friday it sold 416,000 vehicles last month.

Analysts attributed SAIC's solid monthly gain -- strongest since April 2010 -- to rising consumer sentiment ahead of the Chinese lunar new year, which ran from Feb. 2 to Feb. 8 in 2011.

"January data are all pretty strong due to holiday spending, but growth will taper off soon," said Jenny Gu, an analyst with J.D. Power Asia Pacific.

Many Chinese typically go on a buying spree ahead of the new year holiday, snapping up the latest electronic gadgets.

The world's largest auto market will lose momentum in coming months after the government stripped away most stimulus measures, including tax incentives for small cars, analysts say.

Beijing city government's move to impose quotas on new car registrations and possible similar moves by other big cities to tackle gridlock will also stall the market.

China's autos market is expected to grow 10-15 percent in 2011, down from 32 percent in 2010, industry executives said.

Its broad product portfolio and fuel-efficient models will give SIAC a chance of outpacing the market, analysts said.

January sales of SAIC's Volkswagen were up 65.7 percent to 113,000 units year on year, while its GM vehicles posted a 47.2 percent rise to 132,783 units.

SAIC's proprietary brands, Roewe and MG, reported a combined tally of 20,127 units, up 34.1 percent.

(Reporting by Fang Yan and Ken Wills; Editing by Chris Lewis and David Hulmes)