China's passenger car sales shot up nearly 47 percent in May to 829,100 units, buoyed by tax cuts and other government incentives, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers reported Tuesday.
But a month-to-month rebound in U.S. car sales meant American sales outpaced China's for the first time this year.
U.S. sales of cars and light trucks rose 13 percent in May compared with April, to 925,824 units, though they fell nearly 34 percent from a year earlier, according to Autodata Corp.
While China's passenger car sales in May were up 46.8 percent from a year earlier, they were slightly below the 831,000 units reported in April.
Sales of sedans, especially small cars, powered much of the increase in May, jumping 42.4 percent from the same month a year earlier to 591,300 units, the report said.
But sales of crossover vehicles also soared, by 84 percent year-on-year, to 172,600 units. Sales of SUVs climbed 25.8 percent, to 47,700 units, the industry group said.
Passenger car sales surged 21 percent in January-May, to 3.36 million units, while total vehicle sales climbed 14.3 percent to 4.96 million units, outpacing production of 4.84 million units, it said.
But the steady growth in recent months has reinforced confidence in the market's recovery from a downturn late last year.
Another industry group, the China Passenger Car Association, forecasts that China's auto sales will top 11 million units in 2009 — above earlier forecasts for about 10 million.