How Subaru Lost its Joint Venture in China

Marvin Zhu

A year ago, Fuji Heavy Industries, as well as several other global carmakers, chose not to locally produce vehicles in China. Fuji Heavy was said to be seeking a local partner to establish a joint venture. According to rumor, Great Wall, well known for its SUVs, was one possible candidate, as Subaru’s most popular model in China is also an SUV—the Forester.

Beijing Auto (BAIC) was also closely linked because the company needed to expand its product portfolio to compete against other state‐owned giants, such as SAIC, FAW and Dongfeng. In addition, some smaller players—such as Huatai,Youngman and several others— were also mentioned.

However, it was eventually revealed that Chery was the last remaining company in the running to partner with Subaru. A JV would use Chery’s new plant in Dalian to make the first model, which was likely to be the Forester. Chery could learn a lot from Subaru’s engine technology, and might even develop a new brand based on the new technology.

Unfortunately, according to a recent announcement from Fuji, the company has dropped plans to manufacture vehicles in China, after failing to secure the Chinese government’s approval for a joint venture. Since then, Fuji Heavy cut its global sales targets and instead decided to increase its manufacturing capacity in the United States and in Japan. Continue reading ›

Risks Apparent as China Remains Preoccupied with Size and Speed

 

Marvin Zhu

China’s government has earmarked a previously unimaginable 2 trillion yuan (about $300 billion) to build the world’s largest national high-speed railway network. So far, only about half of the total planned route distance of 25,000 kilometers (16,000 miles) has been completed. One of the most recent additions to China’s high-speed railway marvel is an express train between Beijing and Shanghai, which opened in June 2011, some two years ahead of schedule.

China’s ambitious “great leap forward” in industrialization and modernization has been understandably making headlines around the globe. However, these glowing platitudes abruptly turned somber on July 23, 2011, when one of the celebrated Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railroad trains crashed, killing 40 people and injuring some 200 others.

While bad weather and a subsequent system failure were found to be the main causes of the crash, some people speculate that the haste with which the railway was built—driven by thought of generating fast profits and political goodwill—should not be overlooked as a mitigating factor. China has been operating for some time on a progressively “build bigger, go faster” agenda, one where safety and reliability are not always given top priority.

Automotive Industry Caught in Bigger, Faster Tailwind

For more than a decade now, the “build bigger, go faster” mantra has prevailed in China’s automotive industry as well. Ever since China supplanted the US as the world’s largest automotive market in 2009, industry players have been in a fierce race to expand. Over the past two years alone, trillions of yuan have been invested in the car-making business, as automakers race to ramp up production. This frenzied expansion is expected to raise China’s vehicle production capacity to 31 million units by 2013, nearly doubling total sales recorded in 2010. Continue reading ›

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. Continue reading ›