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China auto market seen expanding 8-10 pct in 2014-industry group

BEIJING, Jan 9 (Reuters) - China's vehicle market is expected to expand 8-10 percent this year, slightly slowing from a 13.9 percent growth in 2013, as efforts to rein in pollution threaten to hit demand in the world's biggest auto market, an industry body said on Thursday.

The prediction by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) nevertheless points to a continuing rebound in a market that saw growth slow as low as 2.5 percent in 2011.

"Geopolitical changes could result in high oil and raw material prices, which would sap vehicle demand," CAAM's deputy secretary general Shi Jianhua told a news conference.

"Other adversaries include backward city infrastructures, bad urban planning ... and resultant problems such as pollution and traffic congestion." But in the long term, China's vehicle market still has a lot of room to grow, bolstered by rising demand from smaller cities, as well as people's need for second car, Shi said.

In 2013, vehicle sales in China rose 13.9 percent to 21.98 million units, CAAM said, beating the industry body's forecast of 7 percent growth.

The recovery was partly aided by a rebound in sales of Japanese cars, whose China sales had slumped in 2012 due to anti-Japanese sentiment triggered by a territorial dispute.

China's vehicle sales growth rate plummeted in 2011 and 2012 to 2.5 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively, after a decade of rapid growth when auto demand often surged as much as 30 to 40 percent a year.