BEIJING: China's new vehicle sales passed through the 20m threshold in 2013, recording 17.9% year-on-year growth in December alone, official data has confirmed.

Figures from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) showed that 21.98m vehicles of all types were sold last year, a rise of 13.9% on 2012, while passenger vehicle sales rose 15.7% to 17.93m.

As reported by AFP, the figures are a further indication that the world's largest auto market is continuing to post strong results and will be welcome news for foreign manufacturers, which have suffered from weak sales in mature markets like Europe over recent months.

The Chinese results will be especially heartening for Japanese brands, which were hit by a consumer backlash in 2012 following a diplomatic rift over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Sales of Japanese cars rebounded to 2.93m last year – although CAAM did not provide the annual percentage change – and Cui Dongshu, secretary general of the China Passenger Car Association, attributed their success to the "high regard" Chinese consumers have for Japanese brands.

American manufacturers also performed well with General Motors selling 3.16m vehicles in 2013, up 11.4% from the year before, while Ford witnessed an impressive 49% rise in sales to 935,813 vehicles.

But analysts expect the market to slow down this year as more Chinese cities are expected to enforce curbs on new vehicle sales in a bid to cut high pollution levels.

Cui said he expects growth will slow to between ten and 12% this year, as the one-off boost from Japanese brands recedes, while analysts at IHS Automotive forecast growth of about 10%.

Data sourced from AFP; additional content by Warc staff