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Beijing auto show to kick off on Sunday
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The world's auto makers are to unveil their latest models at a special media opening of the 2008 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition on Sunday.

A record 9,000 journalists, including 1,000 from abroad, will be given a preview of seven models making their global debuts at the tenth Beijing auto show, which opens to the public from April 22 to 28.

Organizers expect around 600,000 visitors, including 30,000 from overseas, to the exhibition.

Foreign auto makers are hoping the booming China market will offset sales slumps elsewhere in the world.

Big global names, such as Ford, Volkswagen and BMW, saw their sales growth far outpace the industry average in China, where total passenger car sales rose 20 percent to 1.85 million in the first quarter.

In contrast, new vehicle sales in the United States hit a 15-year low as consumers held back amid concerns about soaring oil prices and the spreading credit crisis.

The biennial auto show will be held at the enlarged China International Exhibition Center, which reopened late last month at a new site on the northeast outskirts of Beijing.

The exhibition is organized by the country's industry associations and the state-owned enterprises, including the China Machinery Industry Federation, the China National Machinery Industry Corporation, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, and the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Altogether 892 vehicles, including 55 concept cars, will be on show in an exhibition area of 180,000 square meters, and nearly a third of them are homegrown models, the organizers said.

Homegrown models currently have 60 percent of China's new vehicle market, but only 26 percent of the fastest-growing sedan market dominated by foreign brands.

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