Business / Auto China

China top of mind for leading automakers

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-01-12 14:56

DETROIT - As the North American International Auto Show kicked off Monday in the US city of Detroit, executives of the world's leading antomakers have the Chinese market in their sights.

US automaker Ford sold a record 1.1 million vehicles in China in 2015, an increase of 3 percent over the previous year. In an interview with Xinhua, Ford CEO Mark Fields said he is very bullish on China.

"We were very encouraged by the government reducing the purchase tax by 50 percent for automobiles in the fourth quarter. We think that's going to support the auto industry this year," he said.

Fields acknowledged that China is in transition from an industry-led economy to one that is services-led, but said he was encouraged by gross domestic product figures that show growing services and consumption in the country.

Ford is also launching its luxury Lincoln brand in China, along with the Ford Taurus and Ford Edge, both of which are expected to hit the streets in 2016.

The US automaker is also aiming to appease Chinese consumers who look for environmentally conscious automobiles. Ford spokesperson Aaron Miller told Xinhua that the Ford C-MAX, a series of environmentally friendly vehicles, would be launched in China before the end of the year.

Analysts believe that there is reason to be optimistic about car sales in China. A report released Tuesday by the China Passenger Car Association showed that Chinese vehicle sales rose by 16.9 percent in December compared to the previous year.

Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, also has China on his mind, as Mercedes-Benz car sales increased by 39 percent during the third quarter of 2015, beating out both BMW and Audi for Chinese car sales.

Although neither Mercedes-Benz nor Ford dominate the list of best-selling cars in China, which is made up primarily of Volkswagen and General Motors vehicles, both automakers have seen increasing success in recent months.

"Last year, the overall market was flat, but we grew more than 13 percent, because the automobile depends on the market development if you have a product based on listening to customers," Zetsche said.

"We are very optimistic to take the momentum from last year into 2016 and continue where we ended last year," he added.

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