BEIJING (Reuters) - China sales by Japan's Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and its two local joint-venture partners rose 68 percent in April from a year earlier to about 81,700 vehicles, according to a company spokesman.
For the first four months of the year, the Japanese auto maker sold a total of about 293,200 vehicles, a 14.3 percent increase from the same period last year, said the spokesman, Takanori Yokoi.
Yokoi said the large year-on-year jump in April sales was due chiefly to the fact that sales during April last year were comparatively low because of the massive earthquake on March 11. The earthquake and tsunami paralyzed production of key components and affected Toyota's vehicle production around the world, including China.
Still, Toyota's sales momentum was "fairly strong" so far this year, said Yokoi. Because the company's sales performance was so bad last year due to the impact from the earthquake Toyota "should be able to post double-digit sales growth at least for the next several months," the Beijing-based spokesman said.
"If things go as normally as we expect, we should be able to meet our sales goal" of selling one million cars this year, said Yokoi.
Toyota's China sales last year totaled about 883,400 vehicles, a 4.4 percent increase from 2010, reflecting in part the general slowdown of automobile sales in China last year.
After rapid growth in 2009 and 2010, China's auto market as a whole slowed considerably last year as sales of smaller-engine cars and commercial vehicles stalled after the government ended some incentives for car buyers.
Various industry forecasts point to overall vehicle sales this year growing about 5-10 percent from 2011.
Toyota would have to grow sales by about 13 percent this year to meet its goal of selling one million vehicles.
Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Jeremy Laurence