China World's Largest Car Market in First Half of 2009

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

The way it looks, China will severely trounce the USA as the world’s largest auto market in 2009. From January to June, Americans bought 4.8m units, a drop of 35.1 percent. China had sold more a month earlier.

From January through May, Chinese had already bought nearly 5m units, up 14.29 percent from a year earlier. The first six month number in China hasn’t been released, but it is expected to be at around 6m, Gasgoo says. For the year, Chinas industry association CAAM (conservatively) expects sales slightly above 10m. China’s trend is up, while the US is still hemorrhaging. What’s more, with around 40 cars (nobody knows for sure) per 1000 Chinese, China is still at the beginning of mass motorization. The US is awash in cars, with around 800 cars per 1000.

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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  • CarnotCycle CarnotCycle on Jul 03, 2009

    I can only imagine China will be buying more and more cars in the future. It makes sense, considering there is no way to go but up. I am guessing there is also some cushion on the numbers given that pretty much all of China's auto sales I would guess are for new rides. Not a very well established used car market in a country where everyone was on bicycles in the eighties. The next phase for this is whether or not China's car business can play in the world market. I don't mean in the context of selling rides overseas, but in things like industry standards regarding intellectual property, joint deals, that type of thing. It is interesting to note the complete lack of a Russian auto-maker (or vehicle maker of any kind, barring military machinery) emerging on the international scene. The Russians have pretty much knee-capped their own manufacturing sector - export and otherwise - with the way they do business. If times get tough for the elites - either politically or financially - in China, they could revert to the same techniques, with the same results. That's about the only risk I see for them on their way to world-class though.

  • Bertel Schmitt Bertel Schmitt on Jul 03, 2009

    Kevin: For what it’s worth, that China numbers cited here include large commercial vehicles, trucks, and buses; while the U.S. number cited here does not. Careful, if we would deduct what qualifies as "truck" from the U.S. count, America would look like a third world country,

  • Don1967 Don1967 on Jul 03, 2009

    CarnotCycle, You've nailed a number of China's challenges right on the head. It will likely take them only 3-5 years to improve product safety and reliability to some acceptable world standard, and to graduate beyond the copycat phase. When those barriers come down, watch out Ford, Toyota, etc. The ultimate wild card is their own political system. How long can they successfully hold the communist hammer over a burgeoning capitalism? It's hard to imagine this as anything but a powder keg just waiting to go off.

  • Rx8totheendoftime Rx8totheendoftime on Jul 06, 2009

    the nicest belly button seen on TTAC ever!...better than one of the circles in the Audi trademark...hey, there's an idea for a new Chinese car trademark, can't you just see that belly button on a Chinese car, like the Mercedes star, the Honda H? And the car would be called...the Innee