* Q1 net profit 1.7 bln yuan vs 480.4 mln yuan a year ago
* Shares ended up 5.6 pct ahead of results (Adds details and share price)
HONG KONG, April 26 (Reuters) - Surging demand in the world's biggest auto market more than tripled first quarter net profit for homegrown manufacturer BYD .
BYD, 10 percent owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway , expects sales growth in China to slow to about 20 percent this year from nearly 50 percent in 2009 but says it own sales should nearly double.
The company sold 163,000 cars in the first quarter, or 20 percent of its annual target of 800,000.
"The first quarter results are strong and better than expected," said Ricon Xia, an analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets.
However, whether the company could achieve its annual sales target will depend on the market situation in the next few months, he added.
BYD, China's eighth largest car maker, is teaming up withAG to develop electric cars for the Chinese market.
Its F3 remained top-seller in China in the first quarter, beating popular domestic and foreign models, such asMotor's Elantra and Automobile's QQ.
STRONG Q1 EARNINGS
BYD on Monday posted net profit of 1.7 billion yuan ($249 million) for the January to March quarter against 480.4 million a year earlier.
Earnings per share were 0.75 yuan against 0.23 yuan.
The net beat a JP Morgan profit forecast of 1.49 billion yuan or 0.65 yuan per share for the quarter.
Like rival Geely Auto , BYD is tipped as a potential leader in China's auto market. In 2009, BYD beat Geely in terms of net profit growth, reporting a 271 percent jump to 3.8 yuan versus a 35 percent rise to 1.18 billion for Geely.
BYD plans to expand beyond the competitive small car segment, launching MPV, SUV and high-end versions of its popular F3/F6 models in the near future, analysts said.
The company has sold several hundred F3DMs, a hybrid vehicle, to the Shenzhen government and companies such as power producers to help cut emissions in the bustling south China city.
It launched a low-carbon version of F3DM with a solar panel on the roof in Shenzhen last month and plans to sell its e6 electric car in the United States by the end of this year.
Shares of BYD have risen 9.6 percent this year, outperforming Geely, which has lost nearly 16 percent, and a 1.3 percent fall on the broader market . (Reporting by Alison Leung; Editing by David Cowell)