China's automakers are set to sell 6.4 million passenger cars, vans, buses and trucks in 2006, which will result in China replacing Germany as the world's third-largest automobile manufacturer. Vehicle sales in China, Asia's second-largest economy, are growing, even as sales fall in North America.

On a related note, Toyota announced a couple of days ago that it has officially registered the first hybrid vehicles in China under the country's national hybrid vehicle certification system. Of the 30 Toyota Prius cars registered, 27 were in Beijing and the remaining three in other cities. Toyota plans to begin manufacturing the Prius in China's Changchun Plant by the end of 2006.

One thing to keep in mind regarding China is its existing environmental problems and the lack of a dominating motor fuel infrastructure. The lack of a gas station on every corner makes China a prime canidate to lead the world in the purchase and manufacturing of hybrid vehicles over the coming decades as its economy continues to grow and demand for vehicles increases. Whether the Chinese public will buy hybrids is another story.

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