China overtook Japan as the world's No. 2 vehicle market behind the US last year as car purchases by newly affluent drivers jumped 37%, AP reported, citing China Association of Automobile Manufacturers figures released Thursday. China's overall vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, rose 25.1% to 7.2 million units last year, and passenger car sales rose to 3.8 million. Japan's total vehicle sales last year totaled 5.7 million units, a slight decline from 2005, and US car and truck sales totaled 16.5 million units last year, down slightly from 2005. "There's money here and people spend that money on cars," said Michael Dunne, vice president for Asia- Pacific for the auto research firm J.D. Power & Associates. "The Chinese government has made no secret of its intention to develop a car culture and a car industry. All of the forces are working together." China could overtake the US as the top car market some time after 2015, Dunne said.