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Int'l auto giants make progress in China
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Many international auto giants saw their sales in China surge with two-digit growth last year, greatly offsetting their sluggish performance in other markets.

Xu Guozhen, vice-president of Ford Motor (China) Ltd., told Xinhua on Monday that a sales slide in North America left Ford with a negative growth in global markets last year, but its sales in China rose by a sparkling 30 percent.

The concern of a possible U.S. economic recession, overwhelming subprime crisis and soaring oil prices have hit the auto industry hard in the United States, the world's largest vehicle consumer and producer.

The total sales of U.S.-made automobiles last year slipped back to the 1998 level of 16.1 million vehicles, and sales of its three major auto producers General Motors, Ford and Crysler fell by 7.5 percent.

General Motors, narrowly outselling Toyota by 3,500 more vehicles last year, managed to keep its No. 1 seller title, which analysts attributed to its rapid sales growth in China.

General Motors sold more than 1.03 million vehicles in China last year, up 18.5 percent or 160,000 vehicles from a year ago, while its sales in global markets only rose by three percent.

The word's second largest auto maker Toyota also saw a straight sales rise of 62 percent in China last year, compared with its six-percent rise in global markets. In its home Japan, sales of new vehicles even fell back to the level three decades ago.

Yang Hongjian, an employee with the Toyota Motor (China) Investment Co. Ltd., told reporters that Toyota sold a total of 499,000 vehicles in China last year.

German auto giant Volkswagen saw its sales in China hit a record high of 910,491 vehicles in 2007. The figure, which ensured China surpassed Germany as having the most Volkswagen consumers, was 28 percent higher than that of the previous year.

Dong Yang, deputy director of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), believed that China's auto market will keep growing at a rapid pace for the long term. "Chinese residents are shifting their focus in consumption from food and clothing to housing and transport. Many families still haven't got a car. Great demands have created a vast market for international auto makers," Dong said.

Mei Wei Cheng, chairman and CEO of Ford Motor (China) Ltd., predicted that 50 percent of auto sales growth will come from the Chinese market in the following 15 years.

Thus, international auto makers will keep increasing their investment and market exploring efforts in China, Cheng said.

Ford has recently announced that it will invest four billion U.S. dollars in the Asia-Pacific region in the next three to five years, with its focusing on China.

VW China president Winfried Vahland also revealed that his company plans to raise its technical export to China and aims to sell one million vehicles in the country in 2008.
(Xinhua News Agency February 5, 2008)

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