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Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. reported record car sales in China last year, outpacing Japanese rivals hurt by production disruptions from Thailand’s floods and the March 11 earthquake.
Deliveries to Chinese dealers climbed 8.3 percent from a year earlier to 2.55 million vehicles, Detroit-based GM said in a statement today. Ford said its sales grew 7 percent to 519,390 units. Toyota Motor Corp., Japan’s biggest carmaker, said last week that China sales rose last year at the slowest pace since at least 2004 and Honda Motor Co. today reported its first ever annual decline in deliveries in the country.
GM, which received a $50 billion bailout from the U.S. government in 2009, sold an average of one car or truck every 12 seconds in the world’s largest car market last year as it started a five-year rollout of more than 60 new and upgraded models in China. Japan’s earthquake and tsunami affected suppliers for many Japanese automakers, with many also shutting plants in Thailand after the worst flooding in almost 70 years.
“The Americans capitalized on the setbacks suffered from the supply constraints of the Japanese and also benefited from the growing strength of their brands,” said Michael Dunne, head of Dunne & Co., a Hong Kong-based industry researcher.
Industrywide deliveries for 2011 may have risen 3 percent to 5 percent, the least in 13 years, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, which is scheduled to release annual figures this week. Sales growth slowed after the central bank raised borrowing costs to tackle inflation and the government phased out subsidies, rebates and a sales tax break on vehicle purchases.
Last month, China said it will end a seven-year policy to encourage foreign investment in the automotive manufacturing industry on Jan. 30 to allow for “healthy development”, according to the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planner. The announcement comes two weeks after China said it would impose anti-dumping duties on some vehicles imported from the U.S. after failing to block a U.S. tariff on Chinese tires.
The record China deliveries for the American carmakers add to the best year for U.S. industry auto sales since 2008, when GM and Chrysler Group LLC sought U.S. bailouts. GM, Ford and Chrysler all gained share in 2011, ending the year controlling a combined 47.1 percent of the U.S. market, up from 45.2 percent in 2010, according to Autodata Corp.
GM also reclaimed the top spot in world vehicle sales from Toyota last year, which it fumbled away to the Japanese carmaker in 2008 as the Detroit giant careened toward bankruptcy.
The George W. Bush administration provided GM with cash, starting with $4 billion on Dec. 31, 2008, that kept the automaker solvent until the Obama administration could manage the 2009 bankruptcy.
In China, GM aims to double deliveries to 5 million units by 2015 and plans to focus on expanding its luxury car brand Cadillac and its sport-utility vehicle lineup.
Shanghai GM, the U.S. carmaker’s sedan venture with SAIC Motor Corp. that produces Buick and Chevrolet-brand cars, boosted full-year sales 16 percent to 1.2 million vehicles. In 2010, GM sales in China climbed 29 percent to 2.35 million units.
“GM stayed ahead of the competition despite a slowdown in the growth of industry demand thanks to our broad portfolio of appealing vehicles,” Kevin Wale, GM’s China president, said in a statement.
In response to slowing demand for mini commercial vehicles, GM cut the price of its Wuling Sunshine light trucks, which retail at about $4,400, from May. The automaker also rolled out its local sedan brand Baojun to target first-time buyers in inland provinces and less developed cities.
Ford, which is adding four new plants in China, posted a 25 percent increase in sales of its Mondeo sedan last year, while deliveries of the Focus hatchback rose 10 percent in the country, according to a company statement.
“Ford is on track to deliver on its promise to bring 15 new vehicles to China by 2015,” David Schoch, chairman and chief executive officer of Ford Motor China, said in the statement. “Ford expects sustainable growth moving forward in China.”
Honda’s sales in China fell 4.5 percent last year to 617,764 units, the company said in a statement. The March earthquake in Japan resulted in a parts shortage that affected production in China, Zhu Linjie, a Beijing-based spokesman for the carmaker, said by telephone today.
--Liza Lin. Editors: Chua Kong Ho, John Liu
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