Chinese Car Sales Make People See Double

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Some of you are probably tired of the continuous reporting on car sales in China. Executives of the world’s biggest carmakers think otherwise. Without China, their companies would be also-rans. General Motors for instance says it sells more cars in China than back home. January through April, GM reports 972,369 sales from the Middle Kingdom, versus 821,707 in America. Getting a firm hand on sales in the world’s largest car market is important, but difficult. The tear out from a table published by Reuters illustrates this vividly – to the numerically unchallenged.

The untrained eyes (and not too many follow the ebbs and flows of car sales) see two giants on this table: General Motors, and SAIC. Looks are deceiving, most of their sales are counted twice. GM reports its sales in China, SAIC reports the same (but not necessarily identical) sales again. GM has a contract that allows it to report sales of the SAIC-GM-Wuling three-way joint venture, in which GM holds a minority interest. No skin off majority partner SAIC’s back: SAIC simply reports the numbers again. Without the dubious achievement of some 1.5 million Wuling sales, GM would not even be in the Top Three.

People with a tendency towards OCD will notice that the numbers are slightly off. GM reports different numbers for Shanghai GM and SAIC-GM-Wuling than SAIC does. Spend some time in China, and you will shrug it off as a rounding error. There are bigger discrepancies to fry.

Have a look at this table. It shows the January-April sales for select Chinese automakers, as reported by the Chinese manufacturers’ association CAAM and by Reuters. Would the real sales please stand up?

Source: CAAM

Shanghai GM410,200431,309Shanghai VW355,900430,143Dongfeng Nissan237,100522,352Geely150,900155,078Dongfeng PSA142,100142,077
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.

More by Bertel Schmitt

Join the conversation
  • When you've got a billion and a half people and America is stupid enough to give you all of their factory jobs, it should be relatively easy to make money and buy new cars. Too bad those stupid Americans will be forced to scale back their buying and will go deeper into a recession since almost every dollar they spend on products will leave their country. After-all, just about everything they buy says: "Made in China" now. Good thing they are to stupid to enact protectionist policies - you know - like the ones China and South Korea have.

  • Tuffjuff Tuffjuff on May 14, 2012

    Speaking of Buicks, in the next 6-12 months I'm picking up an Enclave. Gorgeous car and surprisingly inexpensive used.

  • Lou_BC Ironic, the Honda Ridgeline, a truck that every truck guy loves to hate is in 6th place.
  • 28-Cars-Later I keep forgetting I own it, but the space look on the ext cab reminds me of my 'Yota pickup of the same model year. I'm pretty sure there is some vintage of Hilux which features the same looking ext cab window (maybe '88?) its a shame these things are mostly gone and when available are $1,000,000,000 [INSERT CURRENT CURRENCY].
  • Sayahh Imagine if Ford had Toyota design and build a Mustang engine. It will last over 300k miles! (Skip turbo and make it naturally aspirated.) Maybe Yamaha will help tune it...
  • Sobhuza Trooper Isuzu's crime was to build some damn good trucks.Shame on them.
  • El scotto Listen, unless you were Lord Headly-Stempmoor or such when you got off the off the boat, boot in Canada, you got the short end of the stick. People got on the boat, these days a plane, to escape famine, becoming cannon fodder in yet another stupid war, or the government thought it was A-OK to let soldiers kill you. Juneteenth is just a way to right one of the more bad ideas in the American experiment. Instead we have commenters who were buying tater chips and diet soda at Wal-Mart and got all butt-hurt because they heard someone who wasn't speaking English. I'm going to go fix a couple of frankfurters with salsa and guacamole and wash them down with a lager or three