GM consolidates top spot in China
Updated: 2006-07-05 15:55

General Motors, the world's largest auto maker, consolidated its position as China's top vehicle seller in the first half of 2006, as booming demand helped the domestic market post healthy gains all around.

GM, which overtook Germany's Volkswagen AG last year to become China's biggest vehicle seller, sold 453,832 units in the six months ended in June, up 47 percent from a year earlier, the company said on Tuesday.

It pegged its market share for the period at 12.5 percent, up from 10.8 percent a year earlier.

Volkswagen posted healthy but significantly slower growth of 30.2 percent for the period, as sales rose to 345,375 vehicles.

China has yet to release national vehicle sales for the first six months of the year. But vehicle sales rose 30.84 percent to 2.97 million units in the first five months of the year, with car sales up 44.2 percent to 2.11 million units.

The strong industry-wide gains come on the heels of 21.4 percent growth in car sales for China last year, and just 15 percent growth in 2004 as Beijing took steps to rein in credit and cool the nation's racing economy.

"GM and our China operations benefited from a stronger-than-expected domestic vehicle market in the first half," Kevin Wale, president of GM China Group, said in a statement.

"We expect vehicle sales in China to remain steady through the end of 2006 and top last year's record. GM and our joint ventures are on track to once again outpace the market, with annual sales growth of more than 20 percent."

GM, whose brands include Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac, said sales for its China joint venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. Group (SAIC), China's most profitable auto maker, rose 49.1 percent in the first half to 201,901 units.

Volkswagen, whose brands include Audi and Volkswagen and which also has a joint venture with SAIC, also credited new models for its own strong gains in the first half of the year.

"The increase in sales is the direct result of Volkswagen Group's restructuring strategy, the 'Olympic Program'," Winfried Vahland, president of Volkswagen Group China, said in a statement.

"The program includes the introduction of new tailor-made models like the Passat Lingyu and the Sagitar."

On Monday, PSA Peugeot Citroen's Chinese venture said its vehicle sales rose 38 percent in the first half to 100,173 units, again crediting the rise to new models.

Other major foreign auto makers in the China market include Toyota Motor Corp, Honda Motor Co. Ltd, DaimlerChrysler A.G. and Ford.

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