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Beleaguered at home, GM thrives in China

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Beleaguered at home, GM thrives in China

China surpassed the U.S. to become the world's largest auto market last year.

General Motors may be struggling in the U.S., but business in China hit new records last year in an economy relatively unscathed by the global financial crisis.

Auto sales for GM and its joint venture partners in China climbed by 66.9 per cent last year to a record 1.8 million vehicles, GM announced. Led by sales of its Buick, Chevrolet and Wuling models, the company boasted a 13.4 per cent share of China's auto market, up by 1.3 percentage points from last year and also a record for the company.

China surpassed the U.S. to become the world's largest auto market last year.

GM also predicted better results for 2010. "Despite the sales records in 2009, it looks as if 2010 will be even stronger," GM China Group President Kevin Wale said in a statement. "The industry outlook is strong, and we expect more growth, albeit it on a somewhat slower pace." The company "has all of the tools in place to have another great year in China," Wale said.

Good news at GM helped to boost the stock price of main China partner, government-controlled SAIC Motor Co. Shares today climbed to 26.9 yuan, up from 26.13 yuan at the end of last year. Last year, the company's stock rose nearby five times, to 26.13 yuan ($3.83 U.S.) from 5.36 yuan (79 cents).

SAIC is also a partner of Volkswagen. SAIC expects to double sales of its wholly owned brands, Roewe and MG, to 180,000 this year, up from 90,000 last year, according to China Daily.

Auto sales were helped by Chinese government spending. About 8 per cent of China's auto sales are to governments, and 90 per cent of that government procurement goes to Sino-foreign joint ventures, according to China Daily.

GM, whose joint ventures and wholly owned companies employ 32,000 people in China, has thrived as brisk economic growth has boosted demand for autos and turned the world's most populous nation into the world's biggest auto market. Chinese companies, partly with help from state-owned banks, have been snapping up assets from struggling U.S. auto makers. Among them, Ford last month reached a tentative agreement to sell Volvo assets to Geely, a non-government-owned Chinese auto maker.

GM's sales rose last year as the company added new models to its China lineup, including a new Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac SLS. Shipments were also helped by an agreement with China's FAW Group to produce light-duty trucks and vans. FAW-GM sold 34,000 vehicles in the four months after it was established in August.

Yet it is with SAIC that GM is most active. The two companies, which have been working together since 1997, said last month that they would form a joint venture to expand in emerging markets, starting with India. The formation of an Indian joint venture is expected to be finalized in 2010, GM said last month. It will produce and sell cars using GM's existing network and widen GM's existing product line in the country.



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It would be ironic if GM became the first Chinese manufacturer to break into the US!

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