China overtook Europe in vehicle sales in 2012 and is now in pole position after passing the United States in 2009.
Sales of passenger vehicles increased 6.8 percent from the previous year to 14.68 million units, the China Passenger Car Association said on Wednesday.
In December alone, passenger vehicle sales jumped 8.6 percent year-on-year to 1.56 million units.
European passenger vehicle sales reached 12.5 million units, 1.1 million fewer than a year earlier.
The US registered the best sales growth since 2008, 13 percent year-on-year, but it still lagged just behind the Chinese mainland market after selling 14.5 million units.
Analysts said China's vehicle market will continue to grow.
The market could be as big as Europe and the US combined, Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, head of vehicle research at the University of Duisburg-Essen, told the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
Rao Da, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association, said the market "would probably yield about 30 percent growth year-on-year in January," driven by an expected sales boom in the run-up to Spring Festival.
"Providing there are no more government curbs, the passenger vehicle market could grow 10 percent in 2013."
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