BEIJING (Reuters) - Sales surged for global automakers in China in 2016 as consumers rushed to buy cars to make the most of a tax incentive, with Honda Motor seeing a particularly brisk pace of business ahead of Ford and Toyota Motor.
Toyota has traditionally led Honda in China - the world's largest auto market - but last year Honda sped past with a year-on-year sales growth of 24% to 1.25 million vehicles, helped by a steady stream of fresh models particularly in the hot sport-utility vehicle segment.
Toyota reported an 8.2% rise in 2016 sales. The automaker expects to sell at least 1.2 million vehicles this year, roughly flat with 2016.
Ford reported a growth in China sales of 11.9% to 1.24 million vehicles in 2016, not including sales of its premium Lincoln brand, according to a Reuters calculation.
All three companies, however, continued to lag sales by Nissan in China. Nissan's sales grew 8.4% to 1.35 million vehicles in the country last year.
Earlier this week, General Motors and its joint venture partners reported sales of 3.87 million vehicles in China for 2016, up 7.1%, cementing the country's position as the U.S. automaker's top market for a fifth consecutive year.
Demand for cars in the Asian country got a shot in the arm last year from China's move to cut taxes on small-engine cars.
The tax incentive, which halved the purchase tax on cars with engines of 1.6 liters or smaller to 5%, is now being rolled back. The tax will rise to 7.5% this year before returning to 10% in 2018 - a move analysts say will prevent a steep drop in sales growth.
(Reporting by Jake Spring; Additional reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu and Beijing monitoring team; Editing by Himani Sarkar)