Toyota's sales in China rise 11% in 2020 even as pandemic hits market

A Toyota Allion car in display on Auto Guangzhou 2020 in China, November 20, 2020. (Photo: CFP)

Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp said on Thursday it sold 1.8 million vehicles last year in China, up 11 percent from a year earlier, narrowing the gap with Volkswagen AG and General Motors CO in the world's biggest car market.

In China, an increasingly important market for top Japanese automaker Toyota, the company has partnerships with FAW and GAC and is adding new car plants for electric vehicles to meet government requirements.

It also sold 223,700 imported premium Lexus vehicles in China, an increase of 11.5 percent from 2019.

Automakers' sales slumped in the first months of last year in China as the government implemented travel restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But overall sales recovered in the second half and China's auto industry now expects sales to have declined just 1.9 percent last year.

Toyota did not offer a sales target for China this year in the statement. Rival GM sold 2.9 million vehicles last year in China, down 6.2 percent compared with 2019. Volkswagen, which sold more than 3 million vehicles in 2019, has not announced its 2020 China sales yet.

The Japanese company has also launched a new joint venture for hydrogen fuel cell systems with several Chinese automakers as it touts own technology in the country.

It is also developing autonomous driving technologies with startup, which has a Chinese background.