General Motors Corp posted a 6-percent growth in its China vehicle sales in 2008, the lowest growth rate in at least six years, the US carmaker said on Tuesday, reflecting the stagnant market amid the financial crisis and a lack of attractive models.
GM and its Chinese joint ventures sold 1.094 million vehicles in China, its biggest overseas market, the company said in an e-mailed statement. It is the second year that the US carmaker has sold more than 1 million units in China.
GM, the biggest foreign automaker in China, registered a 19 percent rise in car sales in 2007 and more than 25 percent high-speed growth in sales since 2003.
"While we expect vehicle sales in China to remain steady in 2009, we anticipate China to remain the world's fastest-growing major market over the next decade. GM will stay aggressive to ensure we continue to be a leader in this key market for our company," Kevin Wale, president and managing director of the GM China Group, said in the statement.
Shanghai GM, the US giant's 50-50 venture with China's largest automaker SAIC Motor, sold 445,709 units of vehicles in 2008, the company said. Sales were down 7 percent from 2007 due to limited introductions of new models.
GM's major rival Volkswagen Group seemed to grow faster, with sales of 853,800 units of vehicles in the first ten months of 2008 in China, increasing 12.6 percent year-on-year, the German automaker announced during the Guangzhou auto show in late November.
Statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show that from January through November, Volkswagen's China ventures FAW-Volkswagen and Shanghai Volkswagen sold 467,343 and 442,937 units respectively, totaling 910,280 units. However, the figure did not include the sales of the imported VW-branded segment.
Winfried Vahland, president of Volkswagen Group China, earlier told China Daily that his company, the first foreign automaker to establish a venture in China, "is confident to achieve the 2008 sales target of 1 million units."
Volkswagen will announce its whole year sales figure next Monday, which is estimated to be the closest it has been to GM's in the past few years.
Shanghai GM has lost its crown of sales champion in the China market in the past three years to FAW Volkswagen, which sold 467.343 units of vehicles in the first 11 months of 2008.
Shanghai GM plans to completely renew its product portfolio over the next few years, starting with the recently released Buick New Regal and Buick Enclave, and the recently announced Chevrolet Cruze.
"Over the next two to three years, we will roll out five or more new products under both of our volume brands, Buick and Chevrolet," said Wale. "Our four other brands (Cadillac, Opel, Saab and Wuling) will also bring out new and upgraded models to meet the rapidly changing needs of vehicle buyers nationwide."
Sales of vehicles from GM's SAIC-GM-Wuling mini-commercial vehicle joint venture rose 17.9 percent last year to 647,296 units, keeping SAIC-GM-Wuling atop the segment for the third consecutive year.