The new executive in charge of Nissan's key China business said Thursday that the number-two Japanese automaker was struggling to catch up with soaring sales in the world's biggest vehicle market. Nissan, part-owned by France's Renault, took a huge hit last year when a Tokyo-Beijing territorial dispute set off riots in China and a consumer boycott of Japanese brands. Nissan, which depends on China for about one-quarter of its global sales, saw demand plummet and has since been trying to scratch back to its pre-boycott 7.7 percent market share. Hiroto Saikawa, who was appointed head of Nissan's China operations after a management shakeup this month, said the firm was on its way back, but was struggling to catch up in a market that grew 20 percent last month from a year ago. "Last month, we were at 6.2 percent market share. If the pace continues, we will be above 7.0 percent in the last quarter of 2013," he told AFP on the sidelines of the Tokyo Motor Show. "But the growth of the market has been much faster than what we anticipated." Before the long-running dispute over an East China Sea archipelago flared anew last year, Nissan was opening 40 to 50 new dealerships in China a year but it had to slam the brakes on that growth as sales dived, Saikawa said. With recent data suggesting the world's second-largest economy was on a stable footing, the Nissan executive said the automaker's plants in China were now running at full steam as its rebuilds its dealer network. "The economy is so stable and the growth in demand is so solid that, last month, the market expanded 20 percent from a year ago," Saikawa said. "There is no way we can even produce that many cars. Our production is now almost at full capacity." Nissan, which has three plants in China with a local partner and plans for another factory to open in 2014, expects to sell about 1.27 million vehicles in the country this year. Some 19.31 million vehicles were sold in China last year, and experts are forecasting sizzling growth until at least 2020.