By on December 26, 2013


For the first time in nine years Volkswagen AG will likely sell more vehicles in China than General Motors, retaking the crown for the biggest foreign automaker selling cars in Chian, the world’s biggest automotive market. Both companies will sell more than 3 million cars and light trucks by the end of the year. Through November, VW is ahead by about 70,000 vehicles at 2.96 million, 17% ahead of 2012 figures. Competition is fierce between the two companies, who have planned to spend a combined $36 billion on operations in China in the near future. Last month VW said that it will be investing $25 billion over the next five years on expansion in China.

Jochem Heizmann, president and CEO of Volkswagen’s China operations, said last month that a lack of capacity prevents VW from selling even more cars in China. “You really have to understand that at present, we really have capacity problems. We could sell more.”

2014 will see VW’s Audi brand, the best selling luxury marque in China, launching a locally assembled A3 and an updated A4. Other group introductions for the Chinese market will be the VW Bora and the Skoda Octavia sedans.

One reason analysts have given for VW surging ahead is GM’s lack of new models. GM will introduce four new models in China in 2014, wearing the Chevrolet brand.  SAIC-GM-Wuling will also be expanding the low coast Baojun brand with a compact hatchback and a multipurpose vehicle.

GM’s sales figures in China include the Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Opel and Baojun nameplates, along with the Wuling brand of small commercial vehicles. If  you exclude Wuling from the total, the Volkswagen brand alone outsells Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac combined.

As a whole, the auto industry have done well this year. Total vehicle sales, including heavy trucks and buses, were 19.9 million units through November. This year China is likely to become the first country to ever book more than 20 million in annual vehicle sales.

In other Chinese auto sales news, Jaguar Land Rover sales are up 28% compared to the same period last year, to 83,499 on strong Evoque and Range Rover Sport sales. Sales should go up even more when local production begins next year since those cars will not be subject to the country’s 25% import duty. Volvo Car Group, owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.,  had sales that were up 45% from last year. Ford overtook Toyota for fifth place on the strength of the EcoSport and Kuga SUVs, and lingering hostility to Japan by Chinese unhappy over disputed islands. Ford is having a record year in China, selling 840,975 vehicles so far, up 51%. Ford’s Focus is China’s best selling car. Toyota sold 809,000 cars and light trucks, up 8% from last year.


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25 Comments on “VW Set to Sell More Cars in China than GM for the First Time in 9 Years...”

  • avatar

    Great, VW’s long run engineering and product based approach is beating GM’s short run marketing and advertising gimmicks approach…

    • 0 avatar

      Engineering based approach?

      Which? The 2.0 slow?

      The (admittedly addressed after it only took a decade) 1.8L turbo 4 that consumed so much oil that it might as well have been a diesel?

      Endless electrical issues and the idea from the VW faithful that changing ignition coils every 30K miles is not a real issue, but regular maintenance?

      Or how about VWs industry in the toilet 48 weeks it takes to address a, “hey, we need to repair this,” to the solution being to the dealers?

      What about the cutting edge technology represented in the US Jetta? Or how about the CC built on the previous gen Passat platform, when the current gen Passat platform is a big ball of, “yawn.”

      VW is one of those companies I truly, deeply, want to love. I want to embrace a VW. I want to experience, “My Fast,” and the joy of a hot hatchback. I really want to love this company.

      But “long run engineering and product based approach???”

      Well I guess so – if you like your product overpriced and served up with a lot of issues.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Many problems with vehicles globally is regional. We don’t get all of the problems that NA gets. A classic example is the unintended acceleration of Toyota’s.

        • 0 avatar

          The UAI claims for Toyota products were absolutely global.

          There were investigations on four continents and claims in Europe, Japan, China, the Middle East, Australia/New Zealand and North America.

        • 0 avatar

          Which I don’t deny any of the above.

          However, Big Al said the UAI issue was a unique North American issue. That simply is not true. Shoot one can do a search on TTAC and find stories from around the world and multi-national investigations that resulted in recalls in North America, the European Union and Asia.

          That’s all – don’t stray from the point.

          Completely agree that Toyota’s woes specific to China go decades back from Japanese World War II atrocities to current political strain over rocks in the middle of the ocean, airspace rights, and oil.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @APaGttH: Agreed.

        I’m amazed at VW apologists who swoon over ‘German engineering’, as though that will pay for their leaky valve guides, faulty electrical systems, or regular wheel bearing failures.

      • 0 avatar

        Coil packs made out of plastic that still crack after a dozen revisions over a decade.

        The blink of death with defective DSG mechatronic units which I’m pretty sure get refurbished and deployed back onto new cars and parts channel.

        2.0T using a flat tapper cam follower for its HPFP that has a habit of getting a hole punched thru by the camshaft.

        Direct injection carbon build up on the intake valves.

        Das Auto!

  • avatar

    Fantastic. Sounds like they just have lots of products old and new and people to buy them.

    Though its looks to me like ford has the best position having the best selling car even though they don’t lead in volume.

    Who said being the number 1 in sales is always a good thing? I’d personally argue it is quite the opposite.

  • avatar

    I can only imagine the quality and durability issues Chinese made VW’s must have. Their long term engineering based approach is to probably just keep the wheels from falling off until “after” the car leaves the showroom. It is my understanding that the Chinese have a thing for European goods period. Mao’s Buick can only take GM so far. It will be interesting to see how fast the Chinese market will saturate. With tighter pollution controls likely on the horizon, artifical barriers to auto ownership, and other hurdles hampering growth, it seems like some sort of ceiling must eventually be found, at least in the most populated cities.

    • 0 avatar

      Just a nit.

      It wasn’t Mao who rocked a Buick. It was Sun Yat-Sen. His Buick is even a tourist attraction.

      Mao and his little red book carrying minions wouldn’t be caught dead in the evil capitalist Buick, let alone have it attached as a symbol of wealth and prosperity.

  • avatar

    It would be interesting to hear from someone in the know (certainly not me) how the Chineese approach the sales and service side of car ownership. Is there a robust group of DIYer’s, a growing group of independent shops? Are the Chineese more reliant upon the dealer network?

    Perhaps there aren’t any noticeable differences versus the US/Europe, but would be interesting to know.

  • avatar

    As the Chinese move away from the supply to consumption side, that will spell trouble for cheap labor and probably our environment. Wages have been increasing…

  • avatar

    China too big to stay old world communist. Who’d have seen this forty years ago when Mao & Nixon shook hands and smudged the Shanghai communique? China’s gone forward bigger than Mao’s great leap or cultural revolution. In many ways the Japs are much like the Brits being an insular island nation with a superiority complex over the neighbours, Mao was George Washington. Today the party is behaving as a collective, non-iconized Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt.

    • 0 avatar

      My girlfriend and I frequently talk about how do you define China.

      It sure isn’t a Communist country (certainly not the way Marx would define it). It’s socialist, sort of, but not really. It is totalitarian, sort of, but it really isn’t it. They are single party, and some forms of protest are met with swift action – while others are not only ignored, but seemingly encouraged. There is a general acceptance by the country’s leadership that economic and political reforms are absolutely essential to the improvement of all – but only so much.

      It is a very odd mix of socialism, Communist ideology, blended with capitalism and an entrepreneurial spirit.

      For example, a central pillar of Marxist-Communism is the workers decide on production, and are equal to their managers. The factories that build the products are institutions of the state. One only has to look at the vast plants of Foxconn and see that the Communist ideal does not exist – at all.

      There are four million Chinese citizens that enter the middle class, each month. Forty-eight million a year. It’s a stunning statistic. The western world better get comfortable with its inevitable economic decline.

      We already see it today in the vehicles being sold in the North American market with design, engine, and transmission nods to Chinese buyers and Chinese regulations.

      • 0 avatar

        Authoritarian technocrat state?

      • 0 avatar

        We wont decline but we wont be the top dog as we once were. Not necessary a bad thing.

        I equate it to the UK post colonialism it declined so to speak but you wouldn’t call the people there poor.

        As to seeing cars built for Chinese markets sure. Will you see lots of import, probably. But, we have a huge ocean in between which makes local production far more attractive.

        You’ll most likely see local production as the Koreans, and Japanese before them have done.

  • avatar

    Perhaps the Chinese are a bit more mechanically sympathetic and don’t have challenges with maintenance, like other parts of the world where VW is popular to.

  • avatar

    It was just matter of time, VW was growing much faster and alredy last year they came close. Actually by some rankings GM is not even 2nd but 3rd, because SGMW should be another carmaker not counting in GM, because of WUling and GM doesn´t have control interrest. Witout Wuling even Hyundai-Kia as group are bigger. Funny thing is that even VW group CHina being bigger than GM and it´s chinese JV´s, still GM is bigger manufacterer in PRC. VW is actually importing cars from Europe – AUDI´s, VW´s and Porsche´s, even some SKoda´s and Seat´s, while GM i believe imports only few Opel´s, maybe Cadillac´s but are producing even for foreing markets, Chevrolet and Wuling rebadged as Chevy´s are exporting to emerging countries. So 2013 will be interresting in fact that VW will be biggest seller in Chinese market, while GM will be biggest automaker by production

    • 0 avatar

      I disagree about RNA challenging GM, actually next year and in 2015 too GM and VW and Toyota will be top 3 easily – probably really close to each other, GM has for now advantage in CHina and US – 2 biggest market that are growing over RNA. Renault-Nissan alliance including Lada could possibly fall to 5th place if Hyundai-Kia try to go for it, for now HK are focusing on quality and improovement, they are the only major automaker who let go possible bigger sales, because of their lack of new plants, i mean they could have 1 more US plant and CHina plant and they would still use 100% capacity. So let´j s wait if Hyundai-Kia won´t decide for new plants in near future, because their cars are selling globally great, they should grow much faster, but they don´t have more capacity

  • avatar

    I’m asking because I don’t know. Is China the biggest automotive market, or only the highest volume? Two 15k cars sold isn’t really twice the market of one 30k car. Is it still just the volume leader, or has it finally become the biggest automotive market?

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