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UPDATE 1-GM says Sept China auto sales up 1.7 pct on year

(Adds analyst comments, detail)

BEIJING, Oct 8 (Reuters) - General Motors Co'sSeptember auto sales in China climbed only 1.7 percent inSeptember, barely benefiting from its Japanese rivals' plungingsales, in contrast to European and South Korean carmakers.

Deliveries of GM's 'Wuling' micro vans, a brand whichaccounts for nearly half of GM's China sales, came to 119,510,up a marginal 0.4 percent from a year earlier as a weak Chineseeconomy hurt small business owners, the Wuling's key buyers.

Sales at GM's car venture with SAIC Motor Corpedged up 3.7 percent, compared with a 17.4 increase in September2011.

GM appears to have missed an opportunity to step into thegap left by Toyota Motor Corp , Honda Motor Coand Nissan Motor Co , whose sales have fallen as aresult of an outbtreak of anti-Japanese sentiment in China,analysts said.

"German and Korean players are the biggest beneficiariesfrom the woes of the Japanese as they are much more competitivein the SUV segment," said John Zeng, Asia Pacific director forindustry consultancy LMC Automotive.

Sales of Japanese cars in China have dropped since protestserupted across the country in mid-September over the Japanesegovernment's purchase of a group of disputed islands in the EastChina Sea.

Toyota's China sales fell 40 percent in September from ayear earlier, and sales at Mazda Motor Corp were down35 percent.

BMW , however, boosted its China sales by 55percent in the month, Audi by 20 percent and Mercedes-Benz by 10percent.

For the first nine months of 2012, GM's sales in China wereup 10 percent to 2.08 million vehicles.

(Reporting by Fang Yan; Additional reporting by NorihikoShirouzu; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

((yan.fang@thomsonreuters.com)(86 10 6627 1233)(ReutersMessaging: yan.fang.reuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: GM CHINA/