Some of you are probably tired of the continuous reporting on car sales in China. Executives of the world’s biggest carmakers think otherwise. Without China, their companies would be also-rans. General Motors for instance says it sells more cars in China than back home. January through April, GM reports 972,369 sales from the Middle Kingdom, versus 821,707 in America. Getting a firm hand on sales in the world’s largest car market is important, but difficult. The tear out from a table published by Reuters illustrates this vividly – to the numerically unchallenged.
The untrained eyes (and not too many follow the ebbs and flows of car sales) see two giants on this table: General Motors, and SAIC. Looks are deceiving, most of their sales are counted twice. GM reports its sales in China, SAIC reports the same (but not necessarily identical) sales again. GM has a contract that allows it to report sales of the SAIC-GM-Wuling three-way joint venture, in which GM holds a minority interest. No skin off majority partner SAIC’s back: SAIC simply reports the numbers again. Without the dubious achievement of some 1.5 million Wuling sales, GM would not even be in the Top Three.
People with a tendency towards OCD will notice that the numbers are slightly off. GM reports different numbers for Shanghai GM and SAIC-GM-Wuling than SAIC does. Spend some time in China, and you will shrug it off as a rounding error. There are bigger discrepancies to fry.
Have a look at this table. It shows the January-April sales for select Chinese automakers, as reported by the Chinese manufacturers’ association CAAM and by Reuters. Would the real sales please stand up?