GM sales in China rise 8% in Jan-Feb

Updated: 2013-03-06 11:16

By Michael Barris in New York (China Daily)

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General Motors Co said sales in China fell 10.6 percent in February amid the Lunar New Year holiday. For the first two months of 2013, sales climbed 7.9 percent, helped by sales of the automaker's popular Buick Excelle sedan.

The weeklong Lunar New Year holiday was in January last year, making a comparison with February 2013 difficult. Automakers in China typically release two-month results when Lunar New Year falls during a different month from the preceding year.

David Sedgwick, an automotive analyst with Automotive News, said the results for January and February of this year show GM "continuing to invest in its Chinese operations," as the Michigan-based company strives to keep pace with China's economic growth.

GM, which is vying with Germany's Volkswagen AG to be the best-selling foreign automaker in China, boosted vehicle production in the country by 20 percent last year and opened 700 dealerships. It also is building two Chinese assembly plants expected to be in operation in 2014 and expects to open 400 dealerships this year.

GM China President Bob Socia was quoted by Automotive News earlier this year as saying: "We are serious about playing in China, and we'll do what we have to in order to compete." Socia said he expected the market in China to grow 5 percent to 8 percent in 2013.

He said he intended to keep GM "ahead of the industry growth rate" in China while increasing the company's market share there. China ended 2012 with overall vehicle sales of 19.4 million.

During February, GM and its joint ventures in China sold 215,070 vehicles, and during January and February combined sold a record 525,835 units. The company's venture with Shanghai's SAIC Motor Corp sold 101,023 units in February, down 2 percent. For the first two months of the year, the partnership amassed sales of 255,243 units, up 12.4 percent from the same period of 2012.

Sales at GM's venture with FAW Group plunged 48.1 percent to 3,670 units in February. For January-February, the venture's sales dropped 14.1 percent to 8,160 units. GM's venture with SAIC and Liuzhou Wuling Motors Co had February sales of 110,193 units, down 15.4 percent. In January and February combined, sales rose 4.7 percent, to 262,012 vehicles.

"GM showed nice growth - not fantastic, but good," Sedgwick said.

The results also highlighted GM's Cadillac line, which is aimed at Chinese buyers who already have embraced Audi, BMW and other luxury brands. Cadillac sales for February rose 8.1 percent to a record 2,295 units, helped by a 36.6 percent surge in sales of the SRX luxury utility vehicle.

GM has shifted from importing Cadillacs into China - a practice that raised the retail price 25 percent - to manufacturing the cars there and opening dealerships in certain large cities. It added about 90 stores in China last year and plans to open 40 this year. GM began to produce its Cadillac XTS in China during the first quarter of 2012. To broaden its product offerings, it will start making its smaller, entry-level ATS model in China later this year.

"I'm confident [Cadillac] sales will go up nicely by the end of the year," Sedgwick said.

GM sales have grown recently at the expense of rival Toyota Motor Corp, which along with other Japanese automakers has seen sales drop amid anti-Japanese sentiment in China tied to a territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

"While Toyota and other Japanese automakers are getting back to normal, they're not there yet," Sedgwick said. "They will take additional months to get back to normal."