GM China's Sales UP 67 Percent in 2009, Could Outsell GM USA in 2010

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

GM China’s 2009 vehicle sales jumped nearly 67 percent year on year to 1.83m units, Gasgoo says, citing company data. GM and its joint venture ventures in China expanded their market share to an estimated 13.4 percent, up from 12.1 percent by the end of 2008.

“Despite the sales records in 2009, it looks as if 2010 will be even stronger,” said Kevin Wale, president and managing director of GM China Group. “The industry outlook is strong and we expect more growth, albeit on a somewhat slower pace.”

If Wale is right, China can overtake the U.S.A. as GM’s largest market in 2010. In the first 11 months of 2009, GM sold 1.86m light vehicles in the US, data of Automotive News [sub] shows. In November, GM sold 177,339 units in China. GM’s sales in the US for the month were only 151,427. This marked the first time in history that GM posted monthly sales in a foreign country that were higher than the domestic figure.

GM China’s numbers are a good indicator for the overall market and point to a strong December. During the first 11 months of 2009, GM China had sold 1.64 million units, an increase of 64 percent year-on-year. GM China could sell even more cars, but can’t make them fast enough. Chinese customers sometimes have to wait several weeks for popular models.

Only fly in the rosy ointment: More than a million of the 1.83m Chinese GMs sold in 2009 have been made by the SAIC-GM-Wuling joint venture that specializes in cheap trucks and vans, popular in China’s countryside. GM holds a 34 percent stake in the joint venture, but counts 100 percent of the sales as theirs.

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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  • Cammy Corrigan Cammy Corrigan on Jan 04, 2010

    I really don't know why people extol the virtues of being big in China. Given their history of being lackadaisical with Intellectual Property (I.P), it's only a matter of time before domestic Chinese automakers start to rip their technologies off and sell similar cars cheaper. Not to mention the threat of their joint venture partners slowly elbowing them out. Then and only, then, will companies like VW and GM see the virtues of doing business North America and Europe.

    • Steven02 Steven02 on Jan 04, 2010

      Till they are elbowed out by the joint venture partners, it would be foolish to ignore the market. And the virtues of Europe are becoming far far slim. When things aren't going well in Europe, the costs of layoffs are huge. The market for cars in Europe is growing very slowly. The market for cars in the US is also small. For large companies, growth is how they are measured. China and India are the place to be right now. Next is Russia. After that, if Africa gets developed, it will be there. Point being, NA and Europe are not exactly the most attractive places to do business. Especially when places like China can improve production by 1/3 and India by 1/5. While not necessarily the best place to do business, you would have to be crazy not to get some of that market while you can.

  • Baldheadeddork Baldheadeddork on Jan 04, 2010

    Close to 60% of the GM's sales in China are from a low-margin JV where GM owns a just a third of the company. What - China doesn't have any rental fleets for GM to dump Aveo's into? C'mon Wale - if you're going to inflate your sales numbers you need to do it the GM way and bury every Avis, Dollar and Hertz yard in Asia with Chevy-badged Daewoos, all the HHR's they can't unload here, and whatever passes for a Malibu in China.

    • Bertel Schmitt Bertel Schmitt on Jan 04, 2010

      Car rental is tiny to non-existant in China. If you rent a car, it usually comes with a driver. Therefore, Mr. Wale has to resort to the old bookkeeping tricks.

  • Baldheadeddork Baldheadeddork on Jan 04, 2010

    I did some more digging and GM is burying the lede in the China sales report. According to this, Buick sales in China were up almost 60% last year, to 450,000 units. That is seriously good news for GM.

  • Juniper Juniper on Jan 04, 2010

    Must be from marketing like this