By on January 30, 2011

Again, China’s vaunted export machine received a black eye: China imported more cars in 2010 than it exported. Of the 18.27 million cars China produced in2010, a pittance of 2.98 percent left the country according to statistics released by China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) via China Autoweb.

China exported 544,900 units in 2010. 282,900 of  those were passenger cars, 261,900 were commercial vehicles.  Total export value of the passenger vehicles was $1.66 billion, the dollar total of the commercial vehicles was $4.75 billion. That amounts to an average price of  $5,868 per passenger car and $18,137 per commercial vehicle. This illustrates that only very low cost cars have some luck abroad. The higher value of commercial vehicles is skewed by heavy Chinese trucks and buses which see some success in 3rd world countries.

Here are the largest exporters:

Main Chinese Car Exporters 2010

Company Units
Chery 92,000
Changan 65,500
Great Wall 55,400
Dongfeng 48,000
BAIC 37,300

These five companies account for 55 percent of China’s exports – with relative chickenfeed.

On the buy side, 650,000 foreign cars were imported, an increase of 84 percent, reports Gasgoo. More than half of the imported cars are luxury SUVs. It could have been more if the suppliers would have been able to keep up with the demand. 2010 was defined by “difficulties in purchasing foreign luxury cars,” Sun Yong, vice general manager of the China Automobile Trading Company, said. Many who ordered their X6 or Q7 last year will wait many months until they will finally get it.

No import values are known yet. Take a guess: Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus are the top three imported brands.

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9 Comments on “China’s Trade Imbalance: Imports Higher Than Exports...”

  • avatar

    But this does not help American trade imbalance since they almost only import from Europe.

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    Also note WHERE the Chinese export to.  In the first half of 2010 (I haven’t seen figures for the whole year yet) the lead export destinations were Algeria, Vietnam, Egypt (!), Syria, Iran, etc.  Without in any way denigrating those countries, I am quite sure they do not have safety or emissions standards approaching those of (e.g.) Japan, France, or Canada.  Combine that assertion with the low prices – you point out – they were getting for these vehicles, and it seems clear to me that Chinese OEMs are not only exporting few vehicles (relative to their total production), but are mostly sending abroad older-design, low-spec units that cannot yet compete in the more developed markets.  I do indeed think China at some point will be able to compete with advanced vehicles in developed markets, but I do agree with TTAC’s general line that that day is further off than many people ever expected, and these export data reinforce that stance.

  • avatar

    I guess that means Germany’s vaunted export machine receives a black eye every time statistics showing their import vs. export of oranges is published, as well :)

    • 0 avatar

      If Germany was an actual producer of oranges and they typically exported them around the world.  Then yes, it probably would.
      Or in the case of China, a country who manipulates their currency to maintain a competitive export advantage.  It could be viewed as a black eye to the commie leaders, who will probably pretty soon be scheming of ways to further rig the system to their advantage so they can keep their slave factories running and further undercutting the social and democratic progress made in the west due to high wages.

  • avatar

    Hmm.  They are probably just importing a lot now and sending them around to their intellectual copy right thieves.. I mean engineers, to copy and clone them.
    It wont be too long before you can buy a brand new knockoff 750li for the same price as a used three year old 3 series.

  • avatar

    As it stands, China doesn’t seem to pose any export threat to developed nations as Chinese domestic brands are currently non-existent to countries outside of China.  For the foreseeable future, Chinese automotive exports to the rest of world will be dependent on non-Chinese brands (VW, GM, Ford, etc.) , and there is no indication yet at least that China will become a major export hub for these brands.
    The biggest threat to the Chinese automotive export market is Thailand, the Japanese and Ford have set up shop there as an export hub to Europe and Asia due to their existing FTA agreements.  VW this month has also announced this month consideration for a Thai plant.
    Unless China can move forward with more FTA agreements its very unlikely that China will become a major automotive exporter.  The Japanese in particular are setting up a massive supply chain infrastructure in Thailand.
    Another factor that may help Chinese exports is a sudden drop in Chinese domestic demand, right now most of domestic production is still feeding the massive Chinese consumption, a sudden change where there is severe excess capacity in Chinese plants could mean a funneling of those productions to the developed world.  However, a “made in China” car also still poses a lot of political and branding risks for the brand that does it.

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