China In February: GM Up A Little, Toyota Down A Little

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

More and more journos wish China would become like America. As in America of 2008: Pop, crash, fizzle. The current meme is that the 18 plus million car sales can’t possibly go on and that the Chinese car market will ape America and will pop, crash and fizzle.

The problem is: The Chinese car market doesn’t seem to be able to read. It just doesn’t want to roll over. It had its big chance last month. China had been closed most of February in observance of the Chinese New Year. Most observers (including myself) had expected minus signs in front of the growth number for February.

First sales numbers are coming if for February, and there are good news and bad news.

The good news is that GM China set another sales record for February. GM and its Chinese joint ventures sold 184,498 vehicles in February, a number never seen before. The growth however amounts to only 5.8 percent.

Buick sales rose 45.9 percent to 40,250 units. Chevrolet sales in rose 5.7 percent to 42,358 units. Cadillac sales jumped 121.1 percent to 1,992 units. Then why only 5.8 percent growth?

GM is now paying the price for adding Wuling minivehicles to their count. Wuling sold 101,133 of the tiny vans last month. GM doesn’t break out a percentage comparison with February of 2010, banking on lazy journos. Too bad, if someone is desperate for a downdraft in sales, here they could be found. Wuling sold 110,315 units in February 2010. We call that a decline of 8.3 percent. And with those vans for midgets making up more than half of GM’s Chinese volume, the decline hurts. But then, an increase of 5.8 percent is better than …

… a decrease 2.8 percent. This is how Toyota closed out their February in China. Sales are down to 44,100 vehicles, The Nikkei [sub] reports. Toyota’s explanation? The same I gave you above: According to Toyota spokesman Hitoshi Yokoyama, the decline in sales in February was partly the result of China’s Lunar New Year holiday, which fell at the start of the month.

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