The World's top automaker General Motors is looking at its China sales to exceed 1 million vehicles this year, encouraged by a strong first-quarter performance.
The US group's China chief Kevin Wale told China Daily: "Although I cannot discuss our precise sales projections for competitive reasons, I can tell you that we expect our sales this year in China to surpass 1 million units for the first time."
If the plan materializes, GM will be the first foreign automaker to hit the 1-million-a-year mark in the world's second-biggest vehicle market since China allowed overseas companies to assemble cars locally in the early 1980s.
The Detroit-based carmaker last year moved 876,747 vehicles in China, ranking No 1, followed by Germany's Volkswagen. From January to March this year, GM's China sales jumped by a quarter to 291,588 units from a year earlier.
"This is an impressive achievement considering the tremendous competition. It has laid a solid foundation for the year as a whole," Wale said.
He said GM will continue to invest $1 billion in China each year through 2010 to expand production facilities, engineering and design capability, and new products. This year it plans to introduce seven new and upgraded models in China, he said.
GM runs a slew of joint ventures with SAIC Motor Corp, the top Chinese auto group. Its China line-up includes locally made models like Buick, Chevrolet and Wuling an acquired indigenous brand as well as imported Cadillac, Saab and Opel.
The US carmaker and SAIC also have a technical center in Shanghai responsible for redesigning its China-made vehicles.
Yale Zhang, director of Greater China Vehicle Forecasts for CSM Worldwide (Shanghai) Ltd, attributed GM's China success to its strong local research and development ability, and marketing tactics compared with other global carmakers.
"It has been enabling most of its vehicles to adapt to the taste of local buyers quickly," Zhang said.
Other major foreign players in China's vehicle market, such as Volkswagen, Toyota and Honda, have not revealed their 2007 sales goals but are also rolling out new models.
Wale predicted that China's vehicle market will grow at a double-digit pace this year boosted by strong passenger car demand.
In the first three months, sales of China-made vehicles rose by 22.2 percent to 2.12 million units, with that of passenger cars rocketing by 28.5 percent to 1.25 million units.
"No other (major) vehicle market is expected to experience the growth of China over the next decade," Wale said. "As a result, GM believes we must be a leader in China in order to remain a global automotive industry leader."
The company is losing sales to Asian rivals in the US market and will possibly be unseated by Japan's Toyota as the world's top automaker this year.
(China Daily April 19, 2007)