WOLFSBURG, Germany: Volkswagen, the auto manufacturer, expects China to become its biggest single market this year, overtaking its home country of Germany in the process, according to the company's ceo, Martin Winterkorn.

It has been estimated that there are at least 60 multinational and local brands competing in China's highly competitive automotive market, which still has considerable room for expansion.

VW sold 112,466 vehicles in the country in March, a record high, with its core brand responsible for 92,969 cars among this total, while its sub-brand Audi shifted 11,848 units, and Skoda registered sales of 7,610.

During the entire first quarter, the company sold 284,143 cars in China and Hong Kong, up 6% year-on-year, including figures from its joint ventures Shanghai Volkswagen and FAW-Volkswagen.

While the German auto market as a whole also saw a 40% increase in sales in March, this was largely based on a scheme offering consumers €2,500 ($3,293; £2,197) for a new, environmentally-friendly model if they scrapped cars over nine years old.

Volkswagen delivered 1.06 million cars to customers in Germany last year, up by just 0.5% on an annual basis, compared with 1.02 million cars in China, amounting to an uplift of 12.5% year-on-year.

Winterkorn now argues the latter nation is VW's "second home market," and estimates VW's "sales in China will overtake that of Germany's this year."

The auto giant plans to invest $1 billion in the country up to the end of 2010, having previously announced the goal of boosting its annual vehicle sales there to 2 million a year by 2018.

Data sourced from China News Daily; additional content by WARC staff