Chinese Numerology: Who Sold The Mostest In 2008?

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
chinese numerology who sold the mostest in 2008

China’s Passenger Car Association released their numbers for the year. For China, which was used to double digit growth, they are disappointing. Other markets, such as the U.S. would die for them. China’s full year passenger car sales rose 7.4 percent in 2008, the Association says.

Before we delve into them, be warned about Chinese numbers. China doesn’t have a “light vehicle” category. Vans or minivans, such as the GM-Wuling offerings, are counted as “commercial vehicles,” and are not in China’s passenger vehicle count. Also, to understand the market, one must be aware of China’s wild and woolly joint venture situation where cars of the same brand are made by different and often competing companies, and sold through different dealer networks.

Here are the top 10 Chinese passenger vehicle sales as Gasgoo reports them. These are real sales, not cars dumped on dealer’s lots. These are government numbers, based on cars that have been registered by owners and issued license plates. However, they count factories. They don’t count brands.

1. FAW VW: 498,867 units

2. Shanghai VW: 490,087 units

3. Shanghai GM: 468,642 units

4. FAW Toyota: 365,699 units

5. Chery: 356,092 units

6. Dongfeng Nissan: 350,621 units

7. GAC Honda: 305,997 units

8. Beijing Hyundai: 294,517 units

9. Geely: 230,420 units

10. Changan Ford: 202,797 units

Now for a closer view:

Volkswagen is a much big winner than the numbers let on. Chinese VWs are made by two entities, FAW VW and Shanghai VW. FAW VW also makes VW’s Audis. Shanghai Volkswagen also makes VW’s Skoda. Then there are imported models, sold through yet another organization. As reported in today’s WAS, the total number of Volkswagen cars sold in China is 1,023,373 units.

GM would also look much better if GM’s Wuling minivans, of which a staggering 647,296 units were built, would be counted. If that would be the case, GM’s Chinese numbers would look much less arthritic than what’s in the list above. GM definitely reports them that way, as the article in the Wall Street Journal attests.

The Nikkei (sub) has yet another view of the situation. They see Honda ahead of GM, with 473,297 units sold in China in 2008, up 11.7 percent from 423,710 units in 2007. Honda has two joint ventures in China. GAC Honda sold 306,183 units, Dongfeng Honda sold 164,216.

The Nikkei adds both up, and says: “The rise puts Honda ahead of General Motors Corp. in terms of passenger vehicle sales in China, which increases the Japanese automaker’s sales ranking to the third place after Volkswagen AG and Toyota Motor Corp.”

Now waitaminute, you say now, isn’t Toyota listed as Again, Toyota has a couple of joint ventures in China. One with FAW. One with GAC. And if you add those up, as Dow Jones Newswire did, then Toyota’s “2008 sales in China grew 17% from a year earlier to 585,000 units.” So it’s VW as the undisputed #1 in China, Toyota as Honda as and GM as #4. We won’t get into the rest of the list, unless you take an extra dose of Tylenol first.

And mind you, we are talking what the Chinese call “passenger vehicles.” In total vehicles sold, it’s a virtual dead heat between GM China (1.09m units,) Dongfeng (1.06m units) and VW (1.02m) units. Speaking of Dongfeng, if you let them, then they will tell you that they sold more passenger vehicles than all of them, because counting Dongfengs’s joint ventures with Honda, Nissan, and PSA together accounted for 727,392 units. Chinese numerology. An endless topic.

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