China produced a record number of vehicles in March, up 10.7% from year-ago to 2,085,238, according to WardsAuto data, marking the first time total builds have exceeded 2 million units in the country.

Car output jumped 10.7% to 1,091,543 units, while light trucks climbed 11.6% and medium/heavy trucks increased 7.1%. Buses, however, dipped 11.2% to 11,372.

Increased wealth among the middle class has led to greater interest in bigger, more powerful vehicles in China, causing a surge in SUV deliveries in recent months.

What once was considered a vehicle used strictly for farming or construction, the SUV now is considered a status symbol for consumers. SUV output jumped 25.1% in March to 193,885 units, making it one of the fastest-growing segments.

Although not as high as January’s 55% growth compared with year-ago, March still saw the largest monthly volume for the segment since February 2011’s 223,958 units.

Through 2013’s first three months, SUVs held an 8.9% share of production, up 0.6 percentage points from like-2012.

SAIC-GM-Wuling was the top manufacturer in March for the first time in the year. After a brief stint in second place, the auto maker regained its former title with 155,013 units, or 7.4% of China’s output. FAW Volkswagen took second with 6.6%.

SAIC-GM-Wuling’s Hongguang was the leading model in March. Production of the multipurpose vehicle totaled 49,543 units, accounting for 2.4% of monthly builds.

The Hongguang also topped China’s production in the first quarter with 127,510 units, followed by the Volkswagen Jetta with 124,131.

China’s total vehicle output rose 12.8% in the year’s first quarter, compared with year-ago. Manufacturers produced 5,397,111 units, positioning the country to pass the 20 million-unit mark by the end of the year.

hrowe@wardsauto.com