Toyota Motor, Japan's largest carmaker, continued to outpace expansion of the mainland vehicle industry, recording mainland sales growth of 77 per cent year on year for the first half. Toyota sold 212,000 vehicles in the world's second-largest vehicle market during the period, according to a company official. Overall mainland car sales are increasing at between 20 and 30 per cent. Official figures for the country's first-half sales are due to be released soon by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. The jump in Toyota's sales helped narrow the gap between it and Shanghai General Motors, a joint venture between Shanghai Automotive Industry and General Motors. The venture said first-half sales increased 12 per cent to 225,502 vehicles with the introduction of fewer new models, according to a statement on the company's website. Toyota brought its mainland operations back under the umbrella of its overall overseas operations at the end of last month after spinning off the unit two years ago, demonstrating the importance of the mainland's contribution to the company's overseas operations. Toyota, a partner of First Auto Works and Guangzhou Automotive Industry, forecast its mainland sales to increase 30.7 per cent this year to 400,000 units, from 308,000 last year. It is seeking to boost its market share in the mainland to 10 per cent by 2010, from 6.5 per cent last year. The company still trails Volkswagen, Europe's largest carmaker, in the mainland market. Volkswagen this week said its first-half sales in the mainland and Hong Kong rose 25 per cent year on year to 431,369 vehicles. Toyota recorded faster growth than other international carmakers in the mainland. Latecomer Ford Motor, which has a joint venture with Changan Automobile Group, said its first-half sales rose 25 per cent year on year to 93,206 vehicles on demand for its Focus model. Models such as the Mondeo will be launched later this year and are expected to be another growth incentive. An annual report from Fitch Ratings said the mainland's car industry would remain stable this year, both in terms of overall growth and leading carmakers' fundamentals. Fitch estimated the market would continue growth of about 20 per cent, driven by robust demand for passenger cars due to rising personal and family affluence. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers estimated sales would reach 8.5 million vehicles this year, an 18 per cent increase on last year. For the first five months of this year, Toyota reported that its mainland sales climbed 76 per cent to 176,000 units, while overall vehicle sales in the sector rose 21 per cent to 2.57 million units. Toyota's global sales last year outstripped those of General Motors, previously the world's largest carmaker, with 8.81 million vehicles sold against GM's 8.68 million, according to figures from trade journal Automotive News.