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GM Aims to Double China Sales by 2015
Published on: 2011-04-19
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General Motors said Monday it aims to more than double the number of cars it sells in China by 2015 as it unveiled its first car model branded specifically for the world's top auto market.

GM China Group President Kevin Wale said the US auto giant aimed to capitalise on "the unmatched opportunities that the Chinese market offers" and sell around five million cars a year by 2015, up from 2.35 million last year.

"The way we're going to get there is we're introducing new brands, we're going to concentrate on building areas of opportunities like luxury ... and commercial (vehicles). We have a great portfolio," Wale said.

Wale said GM was investing in research and development in China, including an advanced design studio, a battery lab and a plan to co-develop electric vehicles with its partner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC).

GM's new China-only brand, Baojun, is one of more than 60 new and upgraded models the US giant plans to introduce over the next five years, Wale said ahead of this week's Shanghai Auto Show.

The Baojun 630, an affordable yet sporty 1.5-litre-engine sedan, was produced by GM, SAIC and Wuling Motors and was unveiled Monday.

The compact sedan will be priced between $10,000 and $15,000, Wale said.

It was designed for young drivers in China's second- and third-tier cities in the country's vast interior, home to tens of millions of people with growing buying power.

Baojun, whose name translates to "treasured horse", will go on sale later this month through a network of 150 dedicated dealerships across the country.

The number of dealerships is expected to double by the end of the year, GM said in a statement.

Having already conquered China's coastal areas and first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shangahi, carmakers are increasingly looking inland to extend their phenomenal growth in a market that saw sales rise more than 32 percent to 18.06 million units last year.

China overtook the United States as the world's top car market in 2009. GM is the leading foreign automaker in the country as measured by sales.

But the company saw sales slow last month to a 1.3 percent on-year rise after a 10 percent on-year rise in the first quarter and as Beijing ended incentives it offered since the 2008-2009 financial crisis hit.

But, Wale said short term variations due to policy changes would be outweighed in the long term by factors such as urbanisation, strong economic growth, low car ownership rates and increased consumer spending.

"For the last 10 years China's annual growth rate has only been below 10 percent one year," Wale said. "The underlying trend is very strong."

Analysts remain bullish about the market's prospects, as the number of car owners is still relatively small compared with the country's massive population of more than 1.3 billion.

The Shanghai Auto Show opens to the media on Tuesday.

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