SHANGHAI, China - Potential buyers swarmed around hundreds of vehicles at the Shanghai auto show at its opening on Sunday (April 21), highlighting the importance to manufacturers of the world's largest vehicle market.Chinese and foreign automakers used girls dressed as Playboy bunnies and dance performances to capture the attention of potential customers and long lines formed to try driving simulators.LARGEST AUTO MARKETAmong the shoppers was entrepreneur Ou Yang, who browsed the sleek black vehicles on offer from BMW. "Since I enjoy driving very much I prefer cars with higher manoeuvrability," he said. "As for the appearance, I pay more attention to the interior than the exterior.”China's auto sales reached 19.3-million vehicles in 2012, 4.3% up on 2011, according to a Chinese industry group. The country has been the world's largest auto market since 2009 though competition has become more intense as sales growth has slowed since 2010 and more companies have piled into the promising market.Sha Sha, who leads consultancy McKinsey's Automotive & Assembly Practice in Greater China, said: "The bar is very high today, compared to five or eight years ago. Given that China is such a sizeable growth market, the game is fair for both incumbent players and really competitive attackers."'MARKET VERY LARGE'Sales of Japanese brands in China have suffered since 2012 amid political row over disputed islands that sparked street protests across the country and calls for boycotts.Toyota China's president Hiroji Onishi expected sales to recover through 2013 as the company launched new products, despite the lingering anti-Japanese sentiment and more competition. "The market is growing very large," he said. "Competition is only going to increase."Another visitor to the show, a Chinese public servant who declined to be named, said he would not buy a Japanese car; he wanted to see Cadillacs from US auto giant General Motors. "I would definitely not buy a Japanese car... because of national sentiment."