Reading The Chinese Tea Leaves: April Market Not As Strong As It May Appear

reading the chinese tea leaves april market not as strong as it may appear

News of strong April results of key players in the world’s largest auto market China may indicate than China’s rest and recuperation period is over. SAIC’s auto sales are up 12.6 percent, says Reuters. GM reports record sales from China, up 11.7 percent for the month. Toyota told Reuters that its April sales in China were up a whopping 68 percent. Is the Middle Kingdom turning the corner to another episode of hyper growth? Let’s take a look.

The Toyota jump is easy to explain. Toyota’s spokesman Takanori Yokoi conceded to Reuters that “the large year-on-year jump in April sales was due chiefly to the fact that sales during April last year were comparatively low because of the massive earthquake on March 11.” For the same reason, Yokoi predicts double digit growth for the next several months. For the first four months of the year, Toyota’s China sales are up 14.3 percent.

Apr ’12Apr ’11YoYShanghai GM94,10196,219-2.2%Buick54,01353,0851.7%Chevrolet41,55544,292-6.2%Cadillac2,0482,550-19.7%SAIC-GM-Wuling127,362100,26227.0%Wuling117,82996,58122.0%Baojun6,018NANAFAW-GM5,1416,470-20.5%

The case of GM China is a bit trickier. GM’s incurable penchant for spinning numbers and omitting key metrics when they get inconvenient, requires a closer look and some Excel work. Blue numbers in the table had to be retrieved from the archives, or recalculated.

GM’s core China business, a.k.a. Shanghai GM, actually was down 2.2 percent in April, mainly caused by a 6.2 percent drop of Chevrolet. Buick was up slightly. Cadillac sales dropped 19.7 percent, a fact GM’s press release shamefully omits.

Shanghai GM’s losses are glossed over by a jump in Wuling sales, where GM holds a minority interest. A resurgence of the commercial sector is a positive indicator. Higher unit sales of low cost delivery vans at minority-held Wuling however cannot make up for losses in the upper brackets.

SAIC sales must be carefully scrutinized, because they contain both joint venture and own sales. SAIC reports a 0.1 percent drop in its JV with GM, and a 10.2 percent gain in its JV with Volkswagen. This, and a report that Audi’s China deliveries jumped 44 percent in April, indicates a continuation of Volkswagen’s strong showing in China. Official Volkswagen Group data are not yet available. The Audi data are a blend of cars made locally in a JV with FAW, and imported cars.

All in all, April sales in China will likely be in the positive region when they are reported some time this week. I do not expect them to jump as high as these early data make believe.

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  • JD-Tippit JD-Tippit on May 07, 2012

    Someone once said imitation was the best form of flattery. Unfortunately, the wise council of that enlightened soul somehow does not apply to the 'CIIMO' pictured above. There is the good way of ripping of car designs, noble, laudable, commendable and then there's the CIIMO way... I really thought that was a 8th Gen Civic until I saw the body colour door frames, that's a serious design faux pas that only the Chinese could accomplish. Here's one for Venum Vellom. Sajeev, you listening?

    • See 1 previous
    • JD-Tippit JD-Tippit on May 07, 2012

      @Bertel Schmitt Well, nice to see the Indians and Chinese get shafted. I can't imagine anyone in the Western markets settling for half-baked cookies. For a while, the scuttlebutt was that the Fit sold in India used lower tensile steel as it attempted to meet India's (non-existent) safety standards. Some efficient penny pinching going on there. Looks like Honda's is heading for the sewers. Pity this.

  • Robert Schwartz Robert Schwartz on May 07, 2012

    What's with the bad haircuts?

    • Daveainchina Daveainchina on May 08, 2012

      too many people willing to cut hair here. Very easy to get your hair cut for less than 20 rmb. So $1 - $5 haircuts here are the norm. None of them done exceptionally well. Also hairstyle in general here in China is very very poor.

  • Garrett They’ve basically screwed Alfa over. Nobody’s going to buy the Tonale. Also, the last Dodge compact vehicle was also a reworked Alfa.
  • Kip65688146 "Everyone is worried about the public stations, but why don't we focus on the low hanging fruit: home charging? "BAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.............This guy gets it!I'll add current battery tech means EV's in their current state are not replacements for ICE Cars & trucks but make a good argument as 2rd or 3rd vehicles in mulit-car households which is hardly a niche market.
  • 2ACL Looking forward to the next part. I didn't like the first generation, but the second-generation was on my radar; I like the low-key, yet elegant styling, and the automotive media raved that the road-handling was significantly cleaned up from its nautical predecessor's. I'd still consider one if a replacement event unexpectedly befell my TL, but developments since have made that something of a long shot.
  • Deanst “Switching to EVs will be end of the Dodge brand. Nobody wants EVs.”Tesla, a brand which only sells EVs, is the number 1 luxury vehicle seller in America. But do go on…….
  • Randall Tefft Sundeen Oldsmobile was ALWAYS my favorite GM marque ! I remember as a kid you couldn't walk down the street without tripping on one! In 1977 and 1984 respectively olds sold. Million units, GM's second biggest seller as well as being the test brand for new options (Why take a risk with Cadillac?) The first CLUTCHLESS MANUAL , the first ELECTRIC POWER WINDOWS the first AUTOMATIC not to mention in 1974 the first airbag. Iam fortunate enough to live in a warm climate where old cars are plentiful sadly very few Oldsmobiles. Many features we take for granted were developed by this special brand