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China becomes world's largest car market

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Monthly car sales in China hit 790,000 vehicles in January, making the country the world's largest automobile market, the China Daily said on Friday, citing analysts.
BEIJING, February 6 (RIA Novosti) - Monthly car sales in China hit 790,000 vehicles in January, making the country the world's largest automobile market, the China Daily said on Friday, citing analysts.

The U.S. saw the second largest volume of car sales during the first month of 2009, with 657,000 cars being sold.

"This is the first time in history that China has overtaken the United States in monthly sales," the newspaper quoted Mike DiGiovanni, General Motors' executive director of global markets and industry analysis, as saying.

Though car sales in China fell slightly last month amid the current financial crisis, the U.S. saw a 37% decline year-on-year to hit a 26-year low.

DiGiovanni said China was likely to remain the world's largest car market throughout 2009, with expected car sales of 10.7 million, while the U.S. was not likely to sell more than 9.8 million.

China outpaced Japan to become the world's second largest car market in 2006.

Last month, the Chinese government took a number of measures to boost car sales, including halving the purchase tax on vehicles with an engine capacity of less than 1.6 liters to 5%.