China has a way of delivering some surprises. Just ask former General Motors Chairman Jack Smith.
It was just over a decade ago when he announced plans to form a joint venture with the local maker, Shanghai Automotive Industry Consortium, and open an assembly plant. In a land known as “the bicycle kingdom,” the landscape was “littered with casualties,” warned one major newspaper. It shouldn’t have bothered.
Last year, Chinese auto sales surged to 13.5 million, soaring past the U.S. to become the world’s largest national market. And GM went along for the ride, its own sales rocketing from just 32,000 when it opened its first showrooms, in 1999, to 1.83 million, last year. That makes China the maker’s second-largest market, “by a considerably wide margin,” said Kevin Wale, president of GM China Group.