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China's share of the global car market has soared in recent years (Photo: Wikimedia)

China looks set to solidify its position as the world's biggest car market, as vehicle demand in second- and third-tier megacities offsets the negative impact of growing political and economic risk.

According to Germany's Center of Automotive Management (CAM), Chinese passenger-car sales rose 8.3 pc to 19.9 million units in 2015. The total is forecast to rise 6 pc in 2016 to 21.0 units.

The US is in second place with 17.3 pc this year and an expected 3.5 pc increase to a record 17.9 million cars in 2016. And the western European market, where sales increased 8.2 pc to 13.1 million units, is expected to grow further to 13.7 pc in 2016.

China, which accounted for 1 pc of global car sales in 2000, sold 26 pc of the world's cars in 2015.

The country has also sharply increased sales of electric vehicles and CAM indicated this trend will continue as congestion and air pollution will trigger more regulatory curbs in the medium term.

The global passenger-car market posted sales increases of 1.3 pc to 76 million units, as high-growth markets more than offset sharp declines in Russia and Brazil, which only a few years ago were seen as among the most promising car-sales countries.

CAM director Stefan Bratzel warned that, despite expectations of further global growth in 2016, risks to the outlook are increasing. "The automotive industry continues on a growth course in 2016," Bratzel said, "but it has to prepare for growing volatility and many uncertainties in several growth markets."

Competitive pressures also will continue to be intense, he said.