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Exactly How Good Were General Motors' October Sales in China?

General Motors headquarters in Detroit. Photo Credit: General Motors.

General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) is having success in China that crosstown rival Ford (NYSE: F  ) can only hope to duplicate as the decade progresses. General Motors is in a battle with Volkswagen to be the top-selling foreign automaker in a region where Toyota and Honda have had a yearlong setback due to a territorial dispute with China, and Ford was late to the game and is now playing catch-up. There is more good news for General Motors' investors: The company just set an October sales record in China and has a chance to top Volkswagen in that country again in 2013.

General Motors and its joint ventures sold 282,446 vehicles in China last month. Sales were up 12.2% on an annual basis as many of its brands and joint ventures set record highs for the month. General Motors is hoping this will kick off its fourth quarter on the right foot as the company would love to end the year with a quarter as strong as its first when its deliveries topped 800,000 units.

Graph by author. Information from General Motors' third-quarter report.

General Motors' market share in China has consistently checked in around 14%, which is very strong compared to Ford's, recorded as a 4.3% share in the market in the third quarter. Ford's goal is to increase that share to 6% by 2015 through a launch of 15 new or redesigned models in the region, but it will still have a long way to go if it wants to catch General Motors. 

Cadillac sales in China are up 53% this year. Photo Credit: General Motors

Cadillacs have sold very well in China, and were up 69% in October to 4,202 units. The growth was driven by its XTS model, which had an all-time monthly sales total of 2,292 units.

Maybe more impressive, due to sheer volume of sales, was Buick's increase of 15% to 69,746 units sold. That improvement was driven by strong demand in the Excelle family, which sold over 23,000 units.

Chevrolet, not to be forgotten, nearly sold 60,000 units in October, which was good for an 8% increase over last year. The Cruze checked in as the top model with sales bouncing 27% higher to 26,273 units. Sales of the Sail family and the Malibu checked in with strong performances of 16,843 and 8,814 units, respectively.

With the first 10 months of the year in the books, General Motors and its joint ventures in China have sold nearly 2.6 million vehicles. That puts the company on pace to break 3 million sales in the region this year. Through the first nine months of this year, General Motors trails Volkswagen just slightly in China with sales of 2.31 million and 2.35 million units, respectively.

General Motors isn't planning on resting on its laurels anytime soon; it plans to spend $11 billion through 2016 to improve its growth in China. When its new assembly plants are completed they should help boost annual capacity to 5 million vehicles. That large increase should help the company take advantage of an automotive market that could jump from 19 million vehicles sold in 2012 to as many as 30 million at the end of the decade. If General Motors can continue being the top foreign automaker in the world's largest automotive market, it will be a huge win for investors as the decade progresses.

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