China was once little more than a blip on the radar for the world's automakers, but the nation of billions has quickly emerged as a major car market. In fact, according to General Motors' sales figures, China displaced the United States as the world's largest auto market during the month of January.

Per GM sales figures, 790,000 vehicles were sold in China during the month of December. In comparison, the U.S. market accounted for roughly 668,000 units.

"This is the first time in history that China has passed the U.S. in monthly sales," Mike DiGiovanni, GM's executive director of global market and industry analysis, told Automotive News. "We are estimating that China is going to come in at 10.7 million seasonally adjusted annual rate in January, about 790,000 units. The U.S. industry, we estimate, at about 668,000 units or about 9.8 million SAAR."

If GM's estimates are correct, it would mark the first time China outsold the U.S. on a month-to-month basis. However, official sales figures for China have not yet been reported.