Shanghai GM Broadens Product Portfolio in China Market

Tim Dunne

Shanghai GM* reports that first-quarter sales of Buick, Chevy and Cadillac vehicles in China increased more than 33% from the same period in 2010, to 313,651 unit sales. GM’s sales in China in the first quarter still outdistanced its first-quarter sales in the United States, even though it was not as lofty a figure this year. What’s interesting is that GM sales were up much more than the market (33% vs 12%), according to our research. The new Buick Excelle XT/GT did very well in the first quarter, as did the LaCrosse and new Regal. In addition, the Chevrolet Cruze has been averaging 20,000 unit sales a month, and the New Sail is averaging almost 15,000 unit sales a month.

Looking ahead, GM has indicated that it is planning the global launch of the latest version of its Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan at the Shanghai Auto Show later this month. The Malibu is an important model for Chevrolet in China. The midsize segment in China accounts for about 12% of passenger-vehicle sales (more than 1.4 million unit sales annually). Currently, the volume leaders in this segment are the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Teanna.

Chevrolet has never really offered a competitor in the midsize segment, and instead has competed exclusively in the sub-compact and compact segments (while Buick has competed in the premium or near premium segment). So there was a gap in GM’s offerings in China. The Malibu—which ranked third in its segment in our 2010 US Initial Quality Study, behind the Honda Accord and Ford Fusion, and ahead of the Hyundai Sonata and Camry—is an upward move by GM that allows Chevy dealers to enter a new (and probably more profitable) segment while raising the cache of the brand.Tim Dunne, director of global coordination at J.D. Power and Associates

*Note: GM’s partner in China, SAIC, announced 2010 earnings of US $2 billion. SAIC has joint ventures with Volkswagen Group (Shanghai VW) and GM (Shanghai GM), which are the two largest-volume automakers in China.

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