Posted by: Frederik Balfour on February 11, 2009
China Sells More Cars than the U.S.
Chalk up yet another humiliation for Detroit: China’s 730,000 vehicles sold in January, exceeded the 656,976 sold in the U.S., making the Middle Kingdom the largest auto market in the world last month. While no-one can deny what a major milestone thatis, it may say more about the desperate straits American automakers are in, than it does about the strength of the Chinese market. While outselling the U.S. should make Chinese auto executives proud, it doesn’t alter the fact that China’s overcrowded auto market is facing a very rough road ahead. Indeed, the market contracted in January year on year by 14.4%, though that looks mild compared to the 37% plunge in vehicle sales in the U.S.
How long China can hang onto its lead remains to be seen if you consider the latest trade figures. Exports plunged 17.5% in January year on year, on top of much smaller contractions in December and November. Chinese consumers are tight with their money at the best of times, and with the global tsunami washing over Chinese shores now too, people are even less likely to open their wallets than before.