By on June 7, 2011

May shapes up to be an accommodating month for China watchers: There’s something for everybody. You want to see the Chinese bubble burst? May will give that to you. You want cliché-confirmation, you want to hear that Chinese hate Japanese? May gives you automotive anti-Japan pogroms. You want GM up? No problem, May has got that. You want GM down? No problem, May has got that. You want unbridled growth? May can do.

Or as the Chinese say: “May wen ti!” No problem!

First, let’s have a look at our patent-pending TTAC China sales oracle, a.k.a. GM China. For long, GM China had served as a punctual and reliable leading indicator for the Chinese market. Lately, it became a bit wobbly. And this time, it was suspiciously late. No wonder, the folks in Shanghai had to work extra hard to spin the numbers.

Reading the GM presser, all seems to be hunky-dory: “General Motors 2011 sales in China surpass 1 million units! Shanghai GM products and brands achieve May sales record! Shanghai GM & SAIC-GM-Wuling outperform the market in passenger car and mini-commercial vehicle segments!”

Then it gets a bit murky. There is no overall growth number. There is no growth number and no prior year comparison for Wuling, which makes for more than half of GM China’s sales. Despite prior exhortations to tell the truth and to publish the data in a transparent format, the way most major automakers do, the laziness of the time-pressed scribe is being counted on.

Again, TTAC has to break out Excel and is forced to go back to prior year data to come to a simple conclusion:

GM China sales, May 2011

GM China

May ’11

May ’10

Shanghai GM 92,519 83,302 11.1%
SAIC-GM-Wuling 93,997 105,395 -10.8%
FAW-GM 3,809 6,773 -43.8%
Total 190,674 196,004 -2.7%

GM China’s sales are down 2.7 percent. Not because of cars. Cars are doing fine. It’s because of those Wuling vans and FAW-GM trucks that had been weak for a while and got really weak last April.

Reuters table of early returns, China, May 2011


May ’11




Ford 45,162 14.0% 230,068 15.0%
Honda 27,204 -31.9% 236,264 -8.9%
Guangqi Honda 15,003 -27.6% 130,542 -16.0%
Dongfeng Honda 12,201 -36.6% 105,722 1.6%
Mazda 18,634 1.0% 86,319 -0.4%
FAW Mazda 11,508 4.0% NA NA
CF Mazda 7,126 -3.0% NA NA
Toyota 38,500 -35.0% 294,900 -2.1%
GM 190,674 -2.7% 1,079,624 4.6%
Shanghai GM 96,219 11.1% NA NA
SAIC-GM-Wuling 93,997 -10.8% NA NA
FAW-GM 3,809 -43.8% NA NA

Reuters collected early data of GM and other makers and consolidated them in a table. Along with a perturbed footnote that says: “GM, SAIC-GM-Wuling and FAW-GM’s monthly declines were calculated based on historical data from GM.” As you can see, Reuters comes to slightly different results than we do. Neither their, nor our data add quite up to the official results. That’s what you get when there is a vacuum of official data: confusion.

Ford has a solid gain of 15 percent. However, Ford is not a harbinger for the Chinese market.

Of the three Japanese that reported so far, Honda and Toyota are way down. No wonder. Mazda is holding its own.

And where is the unbridled growth? Audi, the king of the Chinese premium market, reports a plus of 44.6 percent for May, and a gain of 27.8 percent for the first five months of the year.

It’s too early to render a diagnosis on the Chinese market. The results of the bigger bore brands (Buick +14.4 percent, Ford +15 percent, Audi +44.6 percent) show that demand is healthy. The tsunami-effect will inflict some damage. Chevrolet sales (+4.4 percent) indicate that the smaller bore segment still has some recovering to do. Let’s wait another week until the CAAM data are out.

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3 Comments on “China, Any May You Like It: Ford Up, GM Down, Japanese Way Down, Audi Ballistic...”

  • avatar

    Ford’s presence in China is downplayed too much. 45k cars a month, 1/2 a million a year, isn’t anything to sneer at. Looks like they’re bigger than any of the Japanese brands. GM’s cars do more than double Ford’s (and I’m sure VW and Hyundai are way ahead, also) but that is with many more years of experience, multiple brands, and a much larger dealer network.

    In other words, Ford’s upside potential as a growth % is much greater than GM’s, especially since their mainstream products (Fiesta, Focus) are better.

  • avatar

    “Audi Ballistic”

    A ballistic trajectory generally has two curves, the rising portion and the falling portion … so given Audi’s position at the end of a list describing successive declines, I was thinking that Audi must have suffered some kind of sales-worse-than-death decline…

    Was pleasantly surprised to Audi had scored a +44%… (Mr. Schmitto, you’re a nasty tease!)

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