Never has the term “Red China” been more appropriate than in the last month. The U.S. is staring into China’s taillights. In January, the unthinkable happened. China dethroned the United States as the world’s largest car market. Not for the year. For one month only—so far. Even the biggest optimists (or pessimists, depending how you look at it) didn’t expect (fear) that China would outsell the U.S. before 2015.
The story unraveled during GM’s monthly sales call on Monday. Michael DiGiovanni, GM’s executive director of global market and industry analysis, dropped the remark that an estimated 790,000 vehicles were sold in China in January. Total U.S. sales in January were about 668,000, DiGiovanni estimated. Automotive News [sub] thinks Di Giovanni is an optimist. According to their tally, 656,881 vehicles were sold in January. DiGiovanni’s Chinese number was even news to China, where official counts are not yet available.
“This is the first time in history that China has passed the U.S. in monthly sales,” DiGiovanni said. “We are estimating that China is going to come in at 10.7 million seasonally adjusted annual rate in January. The U.S. industry, we estimate at about 9.8 million SAAR.”