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GM aiming to beat China market growth
Published on: 2009-10-15
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SHANGHAI — General Motors Co. is aiming to beat the already fast pace of growth in the Chinese market, with sales in 2009 possibly surpassing 1.6 million vehicles, its China President Kevin Wale said Wednesday.
 
"We have now exceeded 1.3 million units with three months to go so we will probably exceed 1.6 million," Wale wrote in an online exchange with reporters. "Next year we will again try to grow a little faster than the market growth."
 
GM's sales are already outpacing the overall market. Its total sales in China for January-September surged 55 percent over a year earlier to nearly 1.3 million vehicles, helped by tax cuts and subsidies that have spurred sales, especially of small, fuel efficient models.
 
The surge in demand has helped China widen its lead over the U.S. as the world's top auto market, with 9.66 million vehicles sold in the first nine months of the year, up 34 percent from the same period last year.
 
China's auto sales are forecast to soar to 12.6 million units this year, up 35 percent from 2008.
 
The U.S. ranks second, with January-September sales at about 7.8 million cars and trucks.
 
Reflecting the importance of the Chinese market to GM, the company has located its international headquarters in Shanghai, where it has a flagship joint venture with local automaker SAIC.
 
GM's CEO, Fritz Henderson, who visited Shanghai earlier this week, took pains to emphasize the priority the company places on expanding here, with more than 30 new or "refreshed" models to be introduced over the next five years.
 
"We strongly believe in the growth opportunity in China and will continue to invest here," Henderson told reporters Tuesday. "We're going to keep our foot firmly planted on the gas pedal to grow our business here."
 
GM has nine joint ventures in China that are working hard just to satisfy growth in this market, and is exploring more options, Wale said without giving any details.
The company recently announced a commercial vehicles joint venture with state-run FAW Group Corp.
 
GM executives have downplayed speculation that China would serve as a major export base, especially to developed markets like the U.S.
 
Henderson said exports, if any, would more likely go to emerging markets. But first the company has to meet demand in China.
 
"Currently we are busy trying to satisfy the growth in demand in China so that is our major focus," Wale said in the online exchange on GM's Shanghai Expo Web site. "We also have many operations around the world that can meet demand in those areas.
 
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