Better Luck Next Year: China Postpones Car Launches En Masse

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Shocked by growth rates below the usual double digits, Chinese automakers are postponing plans for new car launches. China’s National Business Daily reports that Great Wall Motor has put off the rollout date for its Coolbear sedan to ’09. (The Coolbear made headlines for being a more or less exact copy of Toyota’s Scion xB.) FAW’s own luxury brand Besturn has moved the launch of its long awaited A-class car B50 to the beginning of next year. Besturn hasn’t done much yet, except become the target of caustic remarks. “Separate the two words,” says China Car Times, “and you get Best Urn – not the worlds most confidence inspiring name for an auto.” Hyundai’s NF and Ford’s new Fiesta will also be postponed. More delayed launches are being expected from China’s 60-odd car brands. Analysts fear that the lack of new models will put an even bigger dent into the already sluggish sales. Rao Da, Secretary General of China Passenger Car Association, estimates the year-on-year growth for Chinese auto sales may slow to five percent in 2008. J.D. Power disagrees. They reckon it will be 9.7 percent. Whoever is right, 2008 growth rates in China will be a far cry from the 24.1 percentage growth achieved in 2007.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Edward Niedermeyer Edward Niedermeyer on Oct 23, 2008

    Belated welcome to TTAC, BertelSchmitt. Fascinating stuff, please keep it coming!

  • BertelSchmitt BertelSchmitt on Oct 24, 2008

    Dankeschön, Herr Niedermeyer! "I'll do my best," as they like to say over here. I don't think there will be a shortage of stories in the land of 60-odd car brands. Actually, they don't even know how many car brands they have. A few months ago, sitting in a conference of respected (not counting me) Chinese auto journalists, I said: "How many car companies are there really in China? I hear two numbers. 60 and 120. What's the real number?" They all shrugged their shoulders. How many cars in China? Likewise a mystery. You'll read numbers between 20 million and 150 million. Most of this is a lack of systems. They simply can't track yet. Some is lost in translation. The fine nuances of "vehicles," "motor vehicles," "cars," "passenger cars," "private automobiles" easily turn into roadkill - especially when the translator makes only $200 a month and rides a bicycle to work. The number I trust this week is 60-some million VEHICLES-WITH-MORE-THAN-TWO-WHEELS in China. That includes some 15 million three-wheelers and low-speed delivery contraptions. How many private cars? Last February, had two numbers in the SAME ARTICLE: "February 29 ( - The total number of private cars in China jumps 32.5% to 15.22 million units by the end of 2007, according to Chinese government statistics released yesterday." And, in the next paragraph: "By the end of last year, total number of vehicles on roads of China has reached 56.97 million units...Of these vehicles, 35.34 million are private cars." Shen me? (Chinese for WTF?) Here is another nice one from last year: "Sources from China's Public Security Ministry said that the recorded number of vehicles in use in China is 150 million in the first half of 2007, of which 53.558 million are autos and 83.548 million are motorcycles." Hmmm ... and the other 12.9 million? Rollerblades? Be it as it may, China has 1.3 billion people (or 1.5, or 1.6 - nobody knows for sure) The G7 average is 610 cars per thousand people. The US tops the list with 740 cars per 1000 men, women, babies, convicts, and near-dead. (No wonder the market stalls when 3-garage homes go into foreclosure - it's lack of public parking!) Using the internationally accepted number of a market nearing saturation with 500 cars per thousand, China has room for 650 million cars! Or 750 million. What the heck, a few hundred million more or less don't matter.

  • IllinoisAutobahn IllinoisAutobahn on Oct 24, 2008

    TTAC has a correspondent in China? How cool is that! (Land of automotive mystery) Eat your heart out, Autoblog! I am really looking forward to your future posts, BertelSchmitt. I really like the line "The number I trust this week." A correspondent's job is never easy (especially in China) but it looks like fun (especially in China).