Industry data show that Chinese auto sales rose by nearly 10 percent last month, led by strong demand for SUVs that more than offset slipping passenger car sales.

The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said Tuesday that 2.06 million sedans, SUVs and minivans were sold in March in the world's biggest auto market. That's 9.8 percent higher than the same month last year.

The group said sales of sport-utility vehicles rose by nearly half and minivan sales increased nearly 18 percent. Sedan sales, however, dipped 3.3 percent.

Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, rose 8.8 percent to 2.4 million.

China's auto sales growth peaked at 45 percent in 2009 and has cooled since. Last year the country's auto sales totaled 21.1 million units.