General Motors

GM targets 10pc growth in China sales for 2014

Carmaker aims to focus on the country's increasing appetite for SUVs and luxury vehicles

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 February, 2014, 1:15am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 February, 2014, 4:57am

General Motors plans to boost sales on the mainland this year by as much as 10 per cent and keep pace with the country's vehicle market for the rest of the decade, the new chief of the company's China operations said.

Matt Tsien, a Chinese-American engineer-turned-executive with 37 years' experience with GM, said his mandate was not to radically change direction, but instead was one of continuity in order to sustain GM's "profitable growth" in the world's biggest car market.

Tsien plans to achieve the objectives in part by focusing on the mainland's increasing appetite for sport utility vehicles and luxury cars.

He said GM expected China's vehicle market to grow 7 to 10 per cent this year from 2013, roughly in line with industry forecasts.

Last year, mainland sales increased 13.9 per cent to 21.98 million vehicles.

In that relatively strong market environment, GM was "looking to at least track and maybe outpace [overall market growth] by a little bit", Tsien said. "We feel fairly optimistic about 2014."

Sales by GM and its joint ventures in China last year grew 11.4 per cent to 3.16 million vehicles.

Tsien, named president of GM China late last year, is the first executive of Chinese origin to lead the carmaker's operations on the mainland.

GM began developing its business aggressively in the mid-1990s when it formed a manufacturing and sales joint venture with state-owned SAIC Motor in Shanghai.

After almost two decades, its annual sales in China account for roughly a third of the Detroit carmaker's global volume.

Tsien said his mandate as GM's new China chief was to "continue with our partnerships and continue with profitable growth in this country".

He said he wanted GM China to grow as fast as the country's overall market, which he said GM saw as roughly 7 per cent a year to "30 million-plus" vehicles by 2020.

Growth rates slumped in China in 2011 and 2012. "But the market has still got some very significant potential," he said, suggesting annual growth of up to 7.5 per cent should be "sustainable" for the rest of the decade.

To help meet its longer-term growth goals, GM will focus on what Tsien described as two high-potential segments: sport utility vehicles and luxury cars.

Many local and global carmakers are stressing sport utility vehicles in expectation that sales of these vehicles will double by 2020 to four million.

However, the focus on sport-utility vehicles and luxury cars did not mean GM would take its eye off affordable no-frills vehicles, Tsien said, an area where GM has developed a significant position in the past decade.

For GM, the segment includes commercial vans and small cars from SAIC-GM-Wuling, which are sold under brand names Wuling and Baojun, and entry-level small cars and hatchbacks offered by Chevrolet.

SAIC-GM-Wuling last year sold 1.58 million vehicles, accounting for half of GM's volume in China.

Tsien said GM planned to introduce more affordable entry models under Chevrolet, Wuling and Baojun this year and beyond. It will also expand the vehicle range offered by its second mainland joint venture with state-owned FAW Motors, which currently produces and sells pickup trucks and bigger so-called light-duty trucks.