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BEIJING -(Dow Jones)- General Motors Corp. (GM) said Tuesday its China sales rose 50% in April from a year earlier to 151,084 units, boosted by the release of two new models and brisk sales of its smaller vehicles.
Sales at GM's passenger-vehicle joint venture, Shanghai General Motors Corp., rose 34.7% from the same month last year to 55,245 units, the company said in a statement.
Sales at GM's mini-commercial vehicle joint venture SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co. rose 60.6% from a year earlier to 95,544 units.
The U.S. auto maker's strong performance in China contrasts with sales in its home market, which slumped 33% from a year earlier in April to 172,150 units. Overall light vehicle sales in the U.S. fell 34% last month, according to Autodata Corp.
GM is racing to restructure outside of bankruptcy court in the U.S., and is expected this week to accelerate talks with the United Auto Workers union and move toward closing about 2,600 dealerships.
In China, the popularity of GM's smaller vehicles is a testament to the effectiveness of government measures to boost demand for autos, said CSM Worldwide analyst Yale Zhang. China halved the purchase tax on vehicles with engines 1.6 liters and under to 5% in January.
Sales of the Buick Excelle sedan, which is available with a 1.6-liter engine, rose more than 120% to 22,078 units in April, GM said. It also sold more than 50,000 units of the Wuling Sunshine minivan.
Zhang said GM's sales were also lifted by the launch of the Buick Regal mid- size sedan in March and the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan in April.
But the boost from government incentives, which also include subsidies for rural residents to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles, will likely wear off in late June, Zhang said.
"The traditional weak season will start," he said.
About 9.38 million vehicles were sold in China last year, a 6.7% increase from 2007. Sales began weakening in July but improved earlier this year, rising 3.9% in the first quarter to 2.68 million units.
-By Patricia Jiayi Ho, Dow Jones Newswires; (8610) 6588 5848; patricia.ho@ dowjones.com (END) Dow Jones Newswires
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