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While Detroit Gains Ground, Japanese Makers Stumble in China

Toyota, Honda, Nissan all hurt by island dispute with China.

by on Jan.07, 2013

A Toyota dealership in Qingdao was burned by protestors in a dispute over an island chain claimed by both China and Japan.

General Motors and Ford Motor Co. have ended 2012 with all-time sales records in China — but the news is nowhere near as good for Japanese makers.

Stung by a dispute between China and Japan over a chain of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, Toyota, Nissan and Honda have all suffered a sharp decline in sales in what has become the world’s largest automotive market.

While General Motors has yet to release its final figures for 2012, the maker already passed its previous peak by the end of November, the 2.59 million vehicles it sold for all of 2011. GM has set a goal of boosting sales in China to 5 million by mid-decade.

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Ford, meanwhile, has confirmed its sales in China rose 21% last year, to 626,616, also an all-time high. The maker was a relative latecomer to the Chinese market but has been aggressively expanding both its product portfolio and production capacity over the last several years.

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GM China Chief Kevin Wale Stepping Down

Supply chain boss Socia to take on Asian assignment.

by on Sep.12, 2012

GM China Group President and Managing Director Kevin Wale will retire after nearly 40 years with the maker.

General Motors’ China chief is stepping down – and at a time when an unexpected economic slowdown in the massive Asian market threatens to throw the Chinese auto industry into turmoil.

No specific reason was given for 57-year-old Kevin Wale’s decision to retire though he has been working for the maker for nearly four decades, starting out in his native Australia with GM’s Holden subsidiary at the age of 20.

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Wale will be succeeded by Bob Socia, who has been serving since 2009 as GM’s director of global purchasing and supply chain.

“Kevin has been instrumental in strengthening our foundation in the largest vehicle market in the world,” Tim Lee, GM vice president for global manufacturing and president of GM’s International Operations, said in a statement.

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Chinese Car Sales Rebound – But Prices Plunge

Dealers faced with a glut of vehicles slash prices.

by on Jun.13, 2012

A Mercedes-Benz E300 on display at the recent Beijing Motor Show.

It’s the Chinese take on the old good-news/bad-news phenomenon: Chinese car sales rebounded sharply in May after a worrying slowdown earlier in the year.  But to help build momentum, dealers have been slashing prices which could translate into lost profits for market leaders like General Motors and Volkswagen.

The sharpest price cuts in several years raise fears that the Chinese car market is weakening – along with the rest of the economy – and could go into a slump if manufacturers decide to hold the line rather than accelerate the current pace of discounting.

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Chinese car sales surged 16% in May compared to year-earlier volume, a welcomed turnaround from the first quarter of 2012 when the market showed an unexpected and unfamiliar decline.  But even so, sales for the first five months of the year were up only a modest 1.7%.  Based on patterns throughout most of the past decade that might have been expected to be more like a 20, 30, even 40% gain.

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GM Sets Another Sales Record in China

GM defies market slowdown.

by on Apr.11, 2012

GM continues to gain ground in China with products like the Buick Excelle.

Slowing car sales have not bothered General Motors and its joint ventures in China – which now appear on track to set another all-time record for 2012.

GM reported it sold 257,944 vehicles in March in China and 745,152 vehicles during the first quarter of 2012, setting records for both March and the first quarter.

GM’s domestic Chinese sales in March were up 10.7% from the same month in 2011. They were the second-highest for any month in GM’s history in China. For the first three months as a whole, its domestic sales increased 8.7%, the best quarter since GM began doing business in China a dozen years ago, the auto giant reported.

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“GM has maintained our growth in our largest market in 2012, despite an overall industry slowdown,” said Kevin Wale, president and managing director of the GM China Group. “Our new models, such as the Chevrolet Malibu, have gotten off to a solid start, complementing the ongoing strength of established products such as the Buick Excelle, Chevrolet Cruze and Cadillac SRX.”

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GM China Sales Top 2 Million

Despite market slowdown, maker heading for new record.

by on Oct.18, 2011

GM China President Kevin Wales.

General Motors has sold more than 2 million vehicles in China for the second year in a row – and despite the slight slowdown in the market – now the world’s largest – the U.S. maker appears set to post another yearly sales record.

The American auto giant reached the 2-million-unit-mark more than two weeks ahead of the date last year when it became the first global automaker to sell 2 million vehicles in China, GM reported

“This is another outstanding achievement for GM in the world’s largest vehicle market,” said Kevin Wale, president and managing director of the GM China Group. “Our key brands and many of our key products have continued to experience record demand despite intense competition.”

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GM’s SAIC-GM-Wuling joint venture, which is targeted at customers in smaller cities and rural China, sold its 1 millionth vehicle in China this year on Oct. 14. In addition, demand in China this year for the Buick brand has risen 24%, with Cadillac up 73% and Chevrolet posting an 18% increase.

China is now the second-largest global market for Chevrolet – which has been pressing hard to expand outside its traditional base in North and South America.  Sales surged 411% since the brand was introduced in China in 2005 – this year expecting to post another record after reaching 544,000 in 2010.

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Chinese Partner Strongly Hints At GM Investment

“We are positive on GM,” says SAIC Chairman.

by on Oct.15, 2010

A Chevy Volt in Shanghai, where it will soon go on sale.

With the Chinese, in general, increasingly willing to spend their money on potential Western bargains, the head of that country’s biggest domestic automaker today gave a clear signal that it is readying an investment in its U.S. partner, General Motors.

GM has been actively lining up investors for the IPO it is preparing – most likely for mid- to late-November.  The maker has been courting traditional sources of cash, including large banks and investment firms, but it is also looking abroad.  But one concern is whether a big investment by China in a company saved by U.S. taxpayer dollars will be politically acceptable.

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“We are positive on GM, we believe the restructuring is very good for GM. We can see that it is moving to a healthy direction of development,” said Hu Maoyuan, Chairman of Shanghai-based SAIC Motor Corp.

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