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Toyota, Nissan pick up speed in China

Japanese automakers enjoying sustained sales growth despite slower economy

HONG KONG -- Toyota Motor's Chinese retail sales of new automobiles rose 9.6% on the year in May as Japanese carmakers gained momentum in the world's biggest auto market.

Toyota's sales in China grew to 112,800 units, the company reported Monday, while Nissan Motor's climbed 5.7% to 112,085 units. Better branding efforts helped both automakers rack up a fourth straight month of year-on-year gains, despite weakness in the market overall.

Toyota's sales were driven by its mainstay Corolla, which saw 17% growth to 32,100 units following minor updates in April. The RAV4 sport utility vehicle came in second at 12,300 units, riding a wave of popularity that SUVs are experiencing in China. Toyota sales for the January-May period improved 4.5% on the year to 517,100 units.

Nissan's sales were led by the Sylphy sedan, which qualifies for a small-vehicle tax break, with the tally rising 20% to 21,636 units. Small commercial vehicles increased by 12%. January-May sales grew 6.2% to 531,756 units.

Honda Motor and Mazda Motor previously reported Chinese sales growth of 16.2% and 27.9% for May.

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