BEIJING, Jan. 11 (Kyodo) — China's auto sales rose 4.3 percent in 2012, up from 2011's 2.5 percent growth, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said Friday.

The muted expansion compared to the double-digit growth seen in 2009 and 2010 is attributed to a drop in sales by Japanese automakers due to a territorial row, as well as weakened personal consumption amid the economic slump.

The deceleration of the Chinese market is triggering an intensification of competition among the world's automakers, which is likely to impact each company's China strategy.

Despite the slowdown, China remained the world's largest market for automobiles for the fourth consecutive year in 2012, with new vehicle sales amounting to 19.3 million units, crossing the 19 million mark for the first time, according to the association.

Japanese carmakers captured a combined 19.4 percent of China's passenger car market in 2011, top among foreign brands. However, due to the territorial row and ensuing calls for boycotts of Japanese products in mid-September, Japan slipped to second place with 16.4 percent in 2012, being overtaken by Germany with 18.4 percent.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. said Monday they posted falls in new car sales in China in 2012. In contrast, American and European brands such as Germany's Volkswagen and General Motors Co. of the United States as well as South Korean automakers expanded their respective shares in the country.

For 2013, the association forecasts sales of passenger vehicles to top the 20 million.