General Motors

GM retains top sales slot among foreign carmakers in China

Success of Wuling minivan helps US carmaker stay on top for eight consecutive years

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 January, 2013, 4:15am

General Motors outsold Volkswagen on the mainland last year, keeping its lead among foreign carmakers in the country for an eighth year, after sales of the US carmaker's Wuling minivans climbed to a record.

But the US giant lost the global sales crown once again to Toyota Motor last year, as its sales grew just 2.9 per cent to 9.2 million vehicles. Toyota has forecast its sales would jump 22 per cent to 9.7 million vehicles.

Deliveries at GM and its Chinese joint ventures rose 11 per cent to a record 2.84 million vehicles, GM said.

Volkswagen, which unlike GM includes Hong Kong in its China tallies, said deliveries rose 24.5 per cent to 2.81 million.

Both carmakers, which count China as their biggest market, may increase their reliance on the mainland, where the number of vehicles sold is forecast to top 20 million units for the first time this year. GM plans to add 400 dealerships, focusing on smaller cities, while Volkswagen plans to invest €9.8 billion (HK$101.7 billion) until 2015.

"GM remained a leader in our company's largest market in spite of a downturn in the commercial vehicle segment, where GM has a significant presence," said Bob Socia, GM's China president. "We benefited from a broad portfolio of models that are meeting the diverse needs of vehicle buyers across China."

In the fourth quarter, Volkswagen outsold GM for a second consecutive quarter, based on calculations derived by subtracting nine-month figures from the annual tally. VW delivered more than 800,000 vehicles in the quarter, while GM sold about 754,000 units, the data shows.

"There's a good chance that either company could come out on top in China sales this year," said Yale Zhang, of Autoforesight Shanghai. "VW will keep pretty strong momentum, most of their models are new, so 2013 and 2014 should be strong years as their products are still in their growing life cycle."

At GM, Wuling deliveries rose 12 per cent to 1.33 million, accounting for almost half of its sales in the country. Buick and Chevy sales gained 8.4 per cent and 5.3 per cent, respectively.

Last year's growth in deliveries accelerated from an 8.3 per cent pace in 2011, the company said. While Wuling sales growth quickened from 3.9 per cent, Chevy and Buick deliveries slowed from 9.4 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively.

Volkswagen reported China sales of vehicles climbed 25 per cent last year. Deliveries at its Audi luxury brand increased 30 per cent to a record 405,838 units.

"Success in China is vital to Volkswagen's 2018 strategy to be the ecological and economic number one in the automotive industry," said Jochem Heizmann, VW's China head. "Although we expect tougher conditions for the car industry to come, we want to maintain our leading market position in China."

For GM, promoting the Cadillac brand in China would be "an area of concentration", Socia said in November. GM would also focus on boosting SUV sales and on exports, he said.