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Wuling: GM’s secret weapon in fight for China

Targeting the next generation of Chinese motorists.

by on Apr.26, 2011

The new Baojun 630 will target the next wave of new Chinese car buyers.

Far from the bright lights and sophistication of its base in Shanghai, General Motors has developed a secret weapon in the duel for supremacy in the Chinese market.  In 2010, SGMWuling, or Wuling for short, generated roughly 50% of all GM’s sales in China.

Based in LiuZhou, a gritty industrial city some 1,400 kilometers (875 miles) south of Shanghai, Wuling is now the single largest brand sold in all of China – by far dominating the more familiar Buick brand that was GM;s first entry into the Chinese market. Wuling’s small, utilitarian vans dominate one of the largest and most important segments in China’s fast-growing vehicle market and it’s quickly adding capacity to capitalize on its recent success.

In addition, Wuling is launching its own car brand, Baojun, which will fill in price points below Chevrolet and appeal to motorists in China’s second, third and fourth-tier cities where buyers tend to be more concerned about value and affordability than status.

“Wuling is most respected in rural areas,” notes Kevin Wale, president of GM China, adding Baojun is aimed at market where buyers want value. Thus, the prices for the Baojun 630, which was unveiled at the Shanghai Motor Show last week, is expected to start at around $8,500. SGMW hasn’t confirmed any prices yet, however no vehicle in the line now costs more than $9,500.

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Wuling already sells one passenger car, the Letchi, which is based on the old Chevrolet Spark, and the plans are to add more models to the Baojun line fairly quickly.  It will compete for sales in inland China with regional brands that play an important role for ambitious local Chinese auto companies such as Geely and Chery.

Matthew Tsien, Wuling vice president and one of a small cadre of GM personnel assigned to LiuZhou, explained that Wuling is a three-way joint venture between GM, its Shanghai-based partner SAIC and a local, state-owned enterprise, LiuZhou Wuling Motor Co. Ltd.


GM Scores Sales Record in China

And it’s not alone.

by on Jan.05, 2011

The Chevy Volt on display at Shanghai's Expo 2010.

It was a good year for the U.S. auto industry – more or less.  After a late-in-the-year burst of activity, sales topped 11 million for 2010, but that’s still a far cry from the 17 million numbers posted a decade ago.

It also meant that China would again retain the title as the world’s largest automotive market.  And with sales in the Asian nation still growing at a double-digit rate, it’s hard to find a single maker that didn’t set another record, from Ferrari to Ford to General Motors.

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GM has now cemented its lead, boosting sales for the year by 29%, to 2.35 million.  In October, GM became the first maker to ever sell more than 2 million cars in a single year in China.

But there’s a downside to that news.  The General actually saw its momentum slip for the year, after scoring a whopping 67% increase in sales in 2009.  Kevin Wale, president of GM’s Chinese subsidiary, expects to still see growth in 2011, but at a more tepid 11% pace.


GM’s Newest 4-Door To Debut At $7,000

But you’ll need to live in China to buy the Baojun 630.

by on Nov.23, 2010

The Baojun 630 targets the next wave of new Chinese car buyers, in the country's third-tier cities.

General Motors and its affiliate SAIC have pulled the wraps off their newest model.  The 630 sedan will go on sale, early next year, as part of the two partners’ new venture, the Baojun brand.

At $7,000, the 630 model is being aimed at the next wave of new Chinese car buyers.  Until now, the country’s impressive automotive revolution has been largely concentrated in Pacific Rim cities like Shanghai and Beijing.  But the central government is hoping to spread its economic miracle inland and automakers like GM and SAIC are only too happy to oblige.

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Under Chinese law, foreign makers must find domestic partners.  The two allies are already active in a variety of joint ventures, including GM’s first Chinese factory, in Shanghai, which produces a variety of Buick models.  SAIC also shares ownership of the Wuling brand, which produces a variety of low-cost microvans.  Wuling, in turn, holds a stake in Baojun.


GM China Sales Surpass U.S. For First Time

Gap likely to widen as May trend extends to six months.

by on Jul.02, 2010

GM has launched 14 new models in China in the last two years, including the 2010 Cadillac SRX.

For the first time ever, China has become General Motors’ single-largest national market, sales for the first half of the year in the booming Asian economy surpassing those in GM’s home U.S. market.

With the carmaker’s Chinese sales expected to reach 2 million this year, and 3 million by 2015 – the gap seems likely to continue widening, GM indicates.

For the first six months of 2010, Chinese buyers snapped up 1.21 million GM vehicles, which are sold in that country under the Buick, Chevrolet and other brand badges.  By comparison, volume totaled just 1.08 million, even though June marked the sixth month in a row of sales growth for the maker’s U.S. core brands.

GM officials confirmed this is the first time one of the company’s foreign operations has “consistently” outperformed the U.S. in the automaker’s 102-year history.

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And considering the harsh criticism GM and its management have faced in the wake of the company’s 2009 bankruptcy, China’s strong performance comes as a bit of vindication.  Former Chairman and CEO John Smith took tremendous heat, in the late 1990s, when he first announced plans to set up a manufacturing operation in what was then little more than a backwater automotive market.